For the avoidance of doubt, the eye-catching title of this show, written by Rob Hayes and first seen at the Fringe in 2014, is literal. Performer Linus Karp lounges on a bed acting out morning after conversations with bestial partners. These one night stands are given the characteristics one might imagine – the dog is presumed to prefer the obvious position, but doesn’t; the cat is a four year-old single mother with seven kids by a father she doesn’t see any more.
What is the meaning of this? Thereby hangs a different tale. No denying the humour in the scenarios, certainly the first couple. “This is creepy,” says one audience member audibly, and it is. There’s several guttural noises of disgust from the audience, but it’s twistedly funny if you can stomach it.
But there’s also a trajectory to the encounters. The animals get odder. The character, Bobby, has to quit his job and eventually has to do a runner when the police come after him.
There may be something in here about the way we treat people with alternative sexualities. An early conversation with his canine companion questions whether people will still think this is wrong in thirty years’ time. If that is the angle the piece is going for, it’s not a strong, clear strand. It might not be much more than offering this guy up for our appraisal and assessment without any steer as to how we are to judge him.
There’s also a parallel story about Bobby’s father which may give some clues as to his state of mind. The guy’s a conservationist too, which explains the bonding with animals. If there’s anything deeper to these two threads, it’s also quite opaque.
Awkward Conversations… is at its best when at its funniest and most perverse. It edges into ever weirder territory and takes your brain to dark places. When Karp’s one-sided conversations take a more serious tone, it’s less engaging. One thing’s for sure though. It’s classic Fringe, in the sense of an edgy idea, offered up in an unusual way, giving you a story you will tell people later. You might also want a wash.