Dave!

Tue 12th – Fri 22nd August 2014

reviews

Gender Trouble

at 22:45 on 16th Aug 2014

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Dave! follows the trials and triublations faced by the young, gay confused (and abused) Dave. Dave is confronted with a depressed love affair, manipulative father, desperate boss and a work colleague who is concerned that her boobs are forming into udders.

Brought to the Fringe by Manchester based theatre company, the play succeeded in creating new and a refreshingly comic piece of theatre, that really was unlike anything I've seen here so far. The play was well suited to an hour long slot, and the troubles Dave faced created sympathy as much as they did laughter.

During musical numbers the actors could be seen to be partially un-dynamic (think low volume, slipping out of character, self awareness), however this was quickly remedied by the sheer comic brilliance their character's maintained. Highlights included the portrayal of Dave's stressed testosterone fuelled lover (the refraining line of 'Play with it, it's soft', induced excessive ammounts of laughter), and Dave's colleague who's certainty that the soup hated her really had the audience in stitches.

Although the play could be seen to return to the graphic, sex themed jokes a little too often, Dave! really was hillarious to watch, and is proof of impressive student theatre. Well worth watching.

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Oliver Collard

at 09:48 on 17th Aug 2014

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When the lights come up we find ourselves watching David trembling in his chair, his alter-ego, Dave standing over him holding a foam cricket bat. A splayed person lies motionless on the floor in front of them. Within seconds, we find ourselves in much the same position as we are bludgeoned into submission, feeling as put upon as David himself. Part psychodrama, part black comedy, Dave! is not a show for the faint of heart.

I can’t remember watching anything with more swearing. In a play which is partly about the release of pent-up tension, this has an important role, setting a corybantic tempo as every other word in the opening seems to be a profanity.

The play flicks from scene to scene, as we put together the events that presumably led up to the corpse on the floor. All of the vignettes have a dementedly surreal atmosphere to them: an office worker who speaks with a singsong quality that half rhymes about work-related anxieties, a co-worker who constantly spills hot beverages on herself, a self-reviling love interest, and at the centre of the piece, two divorcing parents who speak to jarring fairground music which is normally at odds with what they are saying.

These characters talk at David, never permitting him more than a syllable in response to their ceaseless tirades. The lack of a voice in what seems to be his own consciousness is sometimes comical and often disturbing. Rapid scene transitions and excellent use of bright, interrogative lighting also help to notch up the tension and give the play an air of unrelenting.

The copious violence has what seems like its intended effect too; the foam cricket bat makes a horrible whacking sound when Dave hits everyone, which is very often. It’s both slapstick and disturbing. John Hemsoll does well to keep up this onslaught, giving the play some manic energy and carving a fine line between horror and humour as he grimaces, swears, shouts, and smacks David towards a psychotic breakdown.

There are two musical numbers, which have a neurotically upbeat and very strained feel to them which is totally appropriate. Other scenes linger at the periphery of what is tolerable with great success. I find the full on sex scenes with the lover character very funny, as he begs him to ‘play with it’ and also quite troubling, when he breaks down in a post-orgasmic depression, possibly refracting David’s own anxieties about being gay.

There are moments which are only funny up to a point. In one of the many juxtapositions, David’s parents stride out side by side, accompanied by music, declaring that they would still love him no matter what he does in a series of escalating claims. It’s all the usual sort of things: I’d love you if you went to prison etc., and then it gets quite dark. Beyond that point it ceases to be funny. Talk of practising violent anal sex is vanilla compared to saying they’d love him even if he committed genocide or sexually abused children. Dark material in the lightest of situations.

That brings me to my other criticism; pitching this solely as a comedy is kind of a mistake. It is funny, but laughter often comes out of shock rather than anything else. This is a show that will probably divide opinion; if it sometimes too much for some - producing audible winces - it does produce some surprisingly funny moments and raise the pulse of its audience over a frenetic fifty minutes.

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