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Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

By Marinell Haegelin

Fat Pig by Neil LaBute, Robert Rumpf directs

 A young executive ends up sharing a table with a young woman at lunch, prompting conversation whereby he learns she’s a librarian. Before parting, Tom and Helen trade names and a phone number. Spending time together, both welcome how similar their tastes are; Tom’s drawn to Helen, despite her plus-size. Good natured, wise, and as honest as the day is long, Helen’s sense of wellbeing triggers a comforting reaction in Tom. Until his friend and colleague learn he’s seeing someone, then trouble bubbles. Carter’s inquisitiveness is notorious; Tom’s reluctance for him to see Helen is overwhelming. Carter puts a bee in Jeannie’s bonnet, also a co-worker who has been dating Tom off and on for some time, instigating stinging confrontations. As Tom and Helen’s rapport escalates to love, Carter’s probing pays off. Subsequent to seeing Helen, Carter lambastes Tom, warning him to stick with his own kind rather than a “pig”. Equally derogative is Jeannie: How could Tom even consider tossing her over for some “fat bitch”! Its Helen though, who hits the nail squarely on the head: the question is whether Tom is his own man, or not.

 

American playwright, screenwriter, and film director Neil LaBute’s award-winning Fat Pig (2004) continues his, what some deem, misanthropic slant. Yet, his forte is holding up a mirror reflecting what’s lying under the surface of society’s consciousness. In Reasons To Be Pretty, (a 2011 English Theatre production), LaBute faults peoples fixation with facial beauty, whereas here it’s about obsessing over a perfect body. Veteran director Robert Rumpf has a sure grip on the stellar London cast: he holds them back, and gives full reign as diatribes are unleashed. Rumpf’s clearly timed production is in adherence with the words cadence in LaBute’s brilliant, finely honed comedy.

 

Ed Sheridan plays Tom, the typical young-man-on-the-rise, nice guy. Meeting Helen opens his eyes to rewards inherent if someone looks deeper than another’s façade. Sheridan nuances nicely the vacillating Tom: one we like, and one who tests our patience. Rosalind Seal embodies the likable librarian whose extra weight doesn’t impinge; Helen’s perspicacious viewpoints and easy self-confidence is refreshing, for all in the theatre. As Carter, Ziggy Ross is the consummate, shallow jerk, and conceited office buddy. He manipulates by antagonizing, and sees Tom an easy target. Jeannie’s the conundrum, which Lucy Sinclair compellingly captures. Canny, beautiful, and efficient, her self-assurance is shattered when Tom chooses a “fat girl” over her. Any recourse is inadequate, since appearances are intrinsic to whom she is. The implicitly of LaBute’s barbed-wire dialogue is magnified by Mathias Wardeck’s minimal set design, and cushioned by Paul Glaser’s apt music choices. Quips keep us laughing throughout, even if social content is such that audiences might feel uncomfortable. Still, the play’s enduring relevance is strikingly brought to life as its visceral content set off lively discussion afterward about how we define ourselves.

 

Helen (Rosalind Seal) and Tom (Ed Sheridan) lunching
Credit: Kock, ETH

 

Carter (Ziggy Ross) and Jeannie (Lucy Sinclair) confront Tom (Ed Sheridan)
Credit: Kock, ETH

 

Jeannie (Lucy Sinclair) reasoning with Tom (Ed Sheridan)
Credit: Kock, ETH

 

 

 

FAT PIG premiered September 3 and runs until November 7, 2015. The next production is NO DINNER FOR SINNERS, a comedy by Edward Taylor that’s sure to add sparkle to your holidays, and brighten deep winter days. It premieres on November 19, 2015 through February 6, 2016.

 

Evening and matinee performances; tickets available at the theatre or online: www.englishtheatre.de. The English Theatre of Hamburg, Lerchenfeld 14, 22081 Hamburg, Tel: 040-227 70 89: U-Bahn Mundsburg.

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