Awkward Conversations with Animals I’ve F*cked at King’s Head Theatre
First seen at the Edinburgh fringe in 2014, Awkward Conversations with Animals I’ve F*cked‘s London press performance is close to being a 5th anniversary revival of playwright Rob Hayes’s tragi-comic one-man show. The bestiality boldly emphasised in the title, though, may not make this the comedic hit one expected, but the production hints at Hayes’s promising potential as a playwright.
The play is divided into five separate episodes, all set post-coitus, where Bobby (Linus Karp, who has performed the role since 2017) conducts one-sided conversations with his animal partners. The first two dialogues, with a canine and cat respectively, occur within his studio flat, but his last tête-à-tête sees him in a bear cave, as he finds himself “on-the-run” from the police, not least as he’s stolen the previous two animals he’s had sexual relations with.
These surreal encounters provide a wealth of jokes (many obvious), which Hayes fully exhausts; yet, when the writing is focused on the comedy it reduces the play to a series of surreal skits. This is exacerbated by Karp’s polished performance, which is akin to a slick stand-up comedian who is so fully aware of the gags that he leaves the perfect amount of pause for the audience to belly laugh and guffaw until he’s ready to continue his delivery – as opposed to convincingly embodying a character genuinely attracted to animals and struggling to cope with this reality.
Cleverly, and thankfully, however, a parallel story, revealed as the episodes progress, reveals Bobby’s abandonment issues, brought about by his troubled relationship with his father. In the final moment, where he emotionally reveals that he witnessed a suicide attempt by his dad, the piece is at its strongest and the audience realises why Karp has, all along, counteracted the comedy with such overwrought anxiety: to highlight Bobby’s earnest yearning for a longer-term connection with these one-night stands.
It is at these sensitive moments where Awkward Conversations emerges from the shackles of Fringe theatre fodder (complete with anodyne attempt at “shock” factor) and morphs into a credible piece of theatre that offers an astute insight into the fragile mindset of the emotionally dependent young male. While it will be interesting to see if Karp has the capability to undertake future projects of a more traditionally theatrical nature, audiences should look forward with strong anticipation to Hayes’s future work, as this play demonstrates he is a playwright with capabilities that far exceed Fringe-size stages.
Photo: Simon J Webb
Awkward Conversations with Animals I’ve F*cked is at King’s Head Theatre from 12th until 27th April 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.