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The Theatreguide.London Review

Baby Reindeer
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?

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Baby Reindeer - Bush Theatre 2019

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