Joe Ramsden

‘Fat Pig’: A Review

Fat Pig is a 2004 play by American writer Neil LaBute, which premiered in London in 2008, and has finally made its Liverpool debut in the Stanley Theatre of the Liverpool Guild of Student.

It’s a provocative play about a romance between a young professional (Tom, played by George Utley) and a plus size librarian (Helen, played by Greta Sion) that takes the long route round to examine the prejudices of romantic relationships in modern society.

The action is divided between a nondescript office space and the private meetings of Tom and Helen, as Tom fends off the unwanted attention from his work mate Carter (played by George Kemp), and his ex-girlfriend, Jeannie (played by Kiran Khan), who together provide the play’s conflict.

As the self-appointed antagonists to the budding romance, they are both utterly contemptible and searingly honest in their unflattering appraisal of the relationship, as they take great delight in providing a brutal commentary of the lover’s affair.

Together, Carter and Jeannie deliver the play’s supremely uncomfortable moments – as well as its funniest – as they probe the defensive Tom about his relationship with Helen, and the issue of her weight, and by extension the audience’s own presumptions.

An answer to the play’s questions is never neatly packaged and handed to the audience, instead the audience is prompted, and their response preempted by some genuinely tender moments that form the emotional base of this performance.

A technical highlight of the performance was the deliberate split of the stage into two spheres: the public and the private.

These spaces remain quite distinct throughout the play and provide the backdrop (both physically and thematically) for the play’s conflict between the reality of the couple’s relationship and the perceived physical incompatibility of the lovers.

It’s a clever touch that highlights the difference between the couple’s world and its constant struggle to co-exist alongside the public, the realm of cruel co-workers and ex-girlfriends.

However, the play’s warmth and mirth are sadly undercut by the ineffective scene changes. Unfortunately, these delays in the action completely dissipate the energy of the previous scene and slow the play’s momentum to a grinding halt.

Even with some technical issues, the play boasted some fine performances from the cast. Greta Sion delivers a promising rendition of Helen; as a character riddled with self-doubt, her performance is simultaneously vulnerable and delightfully vivacious.

George Kemp has the easiest job of the cast as the obnoxious office worker, Carter, whose stinging one-liners at the expense of Tom and Helen’s relationship provide most of the laughs, and does not disappoint.

The scripted parallels between Carter and Tom, the former being a dark double to the beleaguered lover, are well-realised by George Utley. At an impressive 6’5”, Utley towers over Kiran Khan and should rightly overpower her with his performance. However, Khan holds her own as a diminutive, but both commanding and attention grabbing ex.

Overall, this is a well-written play that is performed well (at times with real tenderness) that leaves audiences with a great many questions to consider after the performance is finished.

The company’s work should come highly recommended.

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