Review by Joe Moss
After five months without theatre this reviewer would happily have paid to sit in an auditorium
and watched paint dry on an empty stage. Fortunately, watching Michael Dunbar’s “F**k Off” is a far more interesting and rewarding experience.
Author Michael Dunbar also features in the role of Henry McGill, an angry young boxer craving success but distracted by his demons and personal relationships – romantic and familial – from the single-mindedness needed to succeed in any competitive sport. He looks the part and moves convincingly in the sparring and fight description scenes and gives a reasonable account of the emotional. His relationship with trainer Billy Boy (Thomas Winter, who is also the play’s producer) is the least dysfunctional of all. Their shared dreams and ambitions bind them together in a misty-eyed bromance and they work well together throughout the evening.
The two female parts which complete the cast, Jess (Hayley Mitchell) and Karolina (Arieta Visoka), make up a Pinteresque triangle of loves past and maybe present; it is a good idea to have them both on stage for a non-confrontation at the end. They both manage, in the relatively short time given to them, to create distinct and interesting roles. The highlight of the night is undoubtedly the tight, pacey narration of the crucial fight with a Mexican rival boxer.
The four actors alternate on front stage commentating on the fight with increasing tension. Highly effective theatre. Henry’s anger is there for all to see but perhaps, being so central to the play, it would have been useful to learn more of the causes of this anger as well as seeing its manifestations. Integrity Theatre live up to their name. It must have been tempting to dash off an easy audience-pleasing piece for theatre-starved junkies to lap up. Instead they have performed an ambitious but challenging work which demands the viewers’ attention. All this in the spartan setting of an unadorned If it is true that we have nothing to fear except fear itself, then maybe it is time to fight this fear, like the plucky team of creatives on show here have done, and support live theatre by going to see their performance. Theatre needs your support like never before.
“F**k Off” is on at The Bread and Roses Theatre (two performances a night) until Saturday 29th August.
And do remember the “new normal” you have to book tickets in advance – in this case