Some things are clearly not meant to be.
The Whingers were fully expecting to be able to review their own West End stage debuts in Fat Pig.
Having missed out on making their Broadway debuts in both Xanadu and the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee they leapt at the chance to secure on-stage seating at the new Neil LaBute play at the Trafalgar Studios.
Andrew had got himself into a right old tizzy of excitement. He had spent weeks planning his “performance”, trying to pin down the nuances of his character (sadly elusive) and, most importantly, deciding what he should wear to draw most attention to himself. He eschewed Phil’s offer of his favourite fashion item of the moment: a Sarah Jessica Parker style fascinator, instead settling for his old favourite “Ignore Me. I’m Just Reviewing Your Performance” t-shirt.
But their plans were cruelly dashed.
Those cunning people at the Trafalgar Studios had obviously got wind of the Whingers’ plans for they were summarily stopped at the door and sent to the box office where a jolly woman explained that they had been “upgraded” from £25 to £45 seats. Had this been a long haul BA flight they might have been excited but Andrew was crushed.
Yes, the theatre had seemingly gone to the extraordinary length of reconfiguring the seating so that the Whingers’ seats actually no longer existed.
As it happens one of their second row stalls seat proved to be excellent, but the one next to it had a very restricted view of the stage as it had the tallest-person-in-the-front-row sitting directly in front of it. To add to the general disgruntlement, several scenes took place sitting or lying on the floor of the stage so it was a pretty poor state of affairs. And this was in the sharply raked (but unforgiving) Trafalgar Studio 1 auditorium. Don’t directors ever check sightlines?
The only silver lining was that the remaining on-stage seats weren’t really on stage at all, just at the side.
Anyhoo what of the play? Well, it stars a group of people off the telly (“the country’s hottest actor-comedians” according to the publicity).
Phil – who embraces such modern modes of entertainment – knew a couple of them but Andrew who famously (and rather loftily) claims not to “do telly” was a bit vague. But the theatre was packed out, so the clever producers’ plan had obviously worked. Judging by the difficulty many of the audience had in matching the letters and numbers on their tickets to the seats, these people were not – in the main – regular theatre-goers eager to catch the latest LaBute.
The story: Tom (Robert Webb as in Mitchell & Webb) meets Helen (Ella Smith) at lunch. They get on well and start dating. But Helen is the titular Fat Pig and Tom finds himself trying to conceal the burgeoning relationship from his work colleagues – mischievous plonker Carter (Kris Marshall) and jilted Jeannie (Joanna Page).
When they eventually find out, the viciousness of office jokes about Helen’s size take a typically LaButian turn. Think watered-down In the Company of Men replacing deafness with obesity.
The Whingers could identify with this. They are used to having insults thrown as them (Fram has produced the best of recent times: “technically closer to wanking than whinging”) and, indeed, throwing them at each other.
The opening scene is one of the funniest of the play, Webb, of course, has good comedy tics and timing. Smith is superb too and easily the most convincingly American English person on the London stage at the moment.
So convincing in fact that as the Whingers were collared by her in the pub afterwards another punter (who the Whingers deftly swatted away) came up to ask her if she really was from the States.
Anyway, as well as being very funny, Fat Pig is utterly engaging and even the cold hearts of the Whingers were touched by this tale of the tribulations of love, of how difficult honesty can be and of third eyes (Not literally, obviously. But that might make quite a good play too).
There were only a couple of whinges. Andrew spent each scene change with his fingers in his ears to shut out the very over-loud rock music, and Phil was unconvinced by the final beach scene in which Webb was wearing a pair of Next underpants beneath his shorts. Does Next have a presence in the US? Phil made a mental note to check but never got round to it.
Footnote 1: In Which The West End Turns The Corner
A few weeks ago the Whingers received one of their oddest requests to date: to recommend two musicals and two plays for a visiting diplomatic dignitary (who we have been asked not to name in order not to risk starting some terrible international incident). We managed to come up with Hairspray and Major Barbara and then got a bit stuck.
While drumming up a second musical recommendation might still be a bit of an effort (Marguerite at a push), this week has increased the list of recommended plays threefold: The Pitmen Painters and now Fat Pig.
The Whingers are clearly on a roll. What could possibly go wrong now?
Footnote 2: Interesting names found in programmes #2
Following on from the wonderfully named wardrobe mistress Traipsy Drake in God of Carnage the Whingers were beguiled to see that Fat Pig‘s Associate Director is Cat Totty.