@ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 11 Apr 2015 (part of A Play, A Pie and A Pint season)
If you are looking for an enjoyable two-hander, littered with one-liners, unrealism, juxtaposition, and the occasional flutter of pathos, then Alison Carr‘s Fat Alice is the perfect fit. However, if you are looking for nuance, a gripping narrative, and risky, engaging theatre, then look elsewhere.
The premise for the play – Moira’s continuous ambiguity about her ‘out of the public eye’ relationship with Peter, because he still hasn’t built up the confidence to tell his wife he wants a divorce – is littered with theatrical potential. With marriage comes family, responsibility, and most importantly, staying true to the legal/moral bond of perpetual loyalty. This is something Moira seems to have selfishly overlooked, and from the beginning the play is perfectly set-up. However, this auspicious set-up is quickly dissolved when a giant monster stands on the roof, shaking the foundations of the building.
The real issue at hand is occasionally brought to the surface, but, unfortunately, any time the production seems to reel us in with a modicum of poignancy, it just as quickly drops us back into the water with absurdist humour. The symbolism of the big foot hanging over their lives is clearly evident, but in reality, it doesn’t have the desired effect. It reeks of cheese personified. As the play progresses, a lot of the situations seem a bit contrived, and this surreal predicament in which they find themselves involved is only further supplemented by clearly-for-comedy-purposes physical theatre.
The writing of the dénouement monologue is very strong, but the way it is delivered – the curtains dramatically opened to reveal Moira in a sparkly dress, dancing about the stage as if she is performing karaoke in the local pub – drastically drowns out the potential it originally presents.
The only saving grace is the effortless performance of the two actors – Richard Conlon (as Peter) and Meg Fraser (as Moira). The pair’s ability to sustain the believability of their precarious position is very refreshing, and the comic timing is, at times, flawless. It only seems a shame they weren’t presented with something a bit more true to real life.
Breaking the metaphorical wall between performer and audience requires believability, something the audience can relate to, and poetic, meaningful dialogue. This production seemed to have everything but, and if theatre is defined by a particular message, then this play is still trying to find one…