Bush Theatre Autumn 2019; Ambassadors Theatre Spring 2020
In his day job as a
bartender, comedian Richard Gadd gave a lonely-looking woman a free cup of
tea, and found himself with a mad stalker. (The title is her pet name for
him, whose disturbing significance is eventually explained.)
She followed him around, left
thousands of e-mails, texts and voice mail messages, alternately declared
her undying love and vicious hatred, targeted his family and girlfriend,
and generally made his life hell for several years.
With the uncanny brilliance
of the deeply disturbed, she was able to attack him precisely at his most
vulnerable points, his uncertainty about his sexuality and his
insecurities as a performer.
Worse even than the constant
barrage was the effect on his own mental health, as 'Why me?' began to
give way to 'Do I somehow deserve this?'
This is the story that Gadd
tells in his 75-minute monologue, and it is presumably true, if possibly
structured for dramatic clarity and effect. (A Google reference he sends
us to doesn't exist.)
But it's not a play.
Art is not reportage. Even if
based on actual incident, it has somehow to shape that incident into
something that resonates beyond itself.
A story has to have some
reason to be told, and 'Because it's true' is not enough.
Gadd the author has not found
any meaning or significance to his experience other than that it happened,
and Gadd the performer – however sympathetic we may feel toward him –
never becomes anything more than a guy in a pub telling us his problems.
Gadd is personable, his
performance is energetic and, under Jon Brittain's direction, he makes
effective use of projections and recorded voices.
But Baby Reindeer never answers the essential question of any performance piece: Why is this man telling this to me?
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Review - Baby Reindeer - Bush Theatre 2019