F*ck Off.

Mon 20th – Sun 26th August 2018

reviews

Lauren James

at 08:44 on 21st Aug 2018

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Despite the crudeness of it's title, ‘Fuck Off’ is a brilliantly subtle piece of theatre brought to life by a strong cast. The performance’s opening is completely engaging, immediately transporting the audience to the world of Henry M’Gill: a promising middleweight boxing champion who, masked by drug addiction and violence, desperately seeks human affection.

The piece’s triumph is the vulnerability with which the cast present their characters. Despite Henry’s aggression, evidenced in shockingly realistic scenes of domestic abuse, viewers empathise with the loneliness and frustration which Oli Dunbar reveals to us. Equally, we relate to Arieta Visoka’s portrayal of Karolina who, maltreated and devalued, strives for escape into a better life.

One of the underlying themes of the play is the exploration into the human desire to be loved and the subsequent impact of others denying this to us. This is encapsulated in the relationship between Jess and Henry which ultimately breaks down due to Henry’s addiction to drugs, resulting in the stripping of his licence to fight. Their chemistry is authentic, aided in their first intimate encounter by atmospheric lighting and the haunting vocals of James Blake’s ‘Retrogade’.

Both energy and pace are maintained throughout, culminating in the fight between M’Gill and his Mexican opponent. The analysis of the match is brought to life by the actors describing each round in turn. This is successful in that the audience appreciates the rawness and complexity of emotion felt by each throughout the encounter. Sadly, however, when Henry loses the fight, the play also loses its way somewhat. Its end is unsatisfactorily abrupt and, having become deeply invested in the four characters, we are left wanting to know their fates.

However, this does not detract from the quality of the acting and poignancy of Henry’s journey. ‘Fuck Off’ must be seen to appreciate the frustration of an outsider who has been pushed to the fringes of society. The play ensures that the realities of human nature are laid bare, enabling all audiences to relate to the pain, loneliness and anger which are synonymous with existence.

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Sally Christmas

at 09:28 on 21st Aug 2018

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'F*ck Off.' is a powerful play about conflict, both physical and emotional, that left me moved and wanting more. With some incredible acting and a clever script, this is exactly the type of show I’d been waiting to see.

The show mixes the difficulties of being a fresh face in the cut-throat world of boxing with a heart-wrenching emotional backstory. At times I found myself a little hazy on the finer details of the plot, and there was the odd moment that lacked a little polish, but honestly, the show was so good, it wasn’t hard to look past it.

There’s nowhere to hide when you have a cast of just four, but every single person gave an amazing performance. Oli Dunbar, writer and lead, owns the role of up-and-coming boxer Henry M’Gill, and manages to show a broken man putting on a tough exterior with incredible skill and subtlety. A frustrating character, M’Gill is stubborn, irrational and defensive, but something in Dunbar’s performance makes you see the side of him he’s so desperate to hide. Despite all of his flaws, my heart went out to M’Gill again and again.

The rest of the cast is equally talented. You can’t help but feel for Billy Boy, M’Gill’s best friend and trainer, and by the end of the show the whole audience is rooting for Katarina, a character who could easily have been unlikeable. Jess is played extremely well by Stephanie Austin, who brilliantly showcases the difficulties that come from loving a man like M’Gill. And, like all great shows, this cast is somehow even better than the sum of its parts.

The performance was well directed, and with a contemporary script and creative staging, the show felt incredibly fresh. The boxing sequences were slick, and some terminology is slipped in well, adding to the authenticity without becoming a gimmick. The use of lighting and sound, particularly in the opening sequence, was brilliant at the setting the tone of the play.

'F*ck Off.' finishes with M’Gill at a crossroads, and I’d become so invested in his story that I couldn’t bear to watch it end when it did. The group are hoping to develop the piece further from a Fringe-size show to a full-length play, and if they do, I’ll be the first in line for a ticket. I would have loved to see the characters explored further, and having more stage time to work with could make the show into something truly breath-taking.

This is a show that packs a punch, both in and out of the boxing ring. With a great story, fantastic characters and even better performances, 'F*ck Off.' is not to be missed.

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