F**k Off at Bread & Roses Theatre
The audience is led up a back staircase and seated in ones and twos, a clear two-metre gap in between each seat not bought together. The lights dim and turn a melancholy blue as a man in a similarly coloured tracksuit slumps on a stool, head bowed. Johnny Cash’s The Beast in Me plays in the background. This is a song about rage and pain and it’s meant to reflect the tone of the play, F**k Off, but the character of Henry M’Gill doesn’t really live up to expectations.
F**k Off tells the story of a middleweight boxing champion who starts his career with pure intentions. Henry wants to make a name for himself and earn enough to buy a house for himself and his girlfriend in the countryside. He is determined to avoid derailing his plan through too much partying, drugs and other fame-related activities, but it’s clear from the start that he has fallen from grace.
Henry starts abusing the coke he and his coach sell on the side, he presumably gets into fights outside of the ring, and it appears he is emotionally and physically abusive towards women. He wants to turn his life around, but a surprise message brings his “rage” to boiling point.
The script is understated, but it feels authentically conversational and there are no points where it sounds heavily scripted. The awkward silences and Henry’s habit of digging himself into a hole feel genuine, and there are some truly impressive, almost spoken word sections which stand out. There are a few awkward phrases which have subtly racist undertones. While this may be in keeping with the nature of the characters, it was uncomfortable to watch.
The acting is decent and the two male characters bounce off each other nicely. The lighting is a little predictable but effective, the music is a little too loud but it works well with the mood of the room, and the costumes, while not revolutionary, suit each character and situation.
The problem with F**k Off is that we are never really shown the rage that’s promised on the billboard. Henry can be callous and there are moments when he’s clearly worked up, but “rage” and “violence” are missing for most of the play. When they do come out it is fierce and raw, but the emotion comes too late in the play to set the tone.
F**k Off’s timeline is also a little confusing. What is a flashback and what’s happening in the present? What was Henry on trial for and why is it never mentioned again? Was he two-timing his girlfriend or have we skipped a few years? We’re set up for a high energy, rage-fuelled story of one character’s quest to find redemption and tame “the beast within”, but Henry is more sullen than fiery, and so the reality doesn’t really live up to the premise.
Photo: Will Hunt
F**k Off is at the Bread & Roses Theatre from 25th – 29th August 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.