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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Fat Pig
Trafalgar Studios Summer 2008; Comedy Theatre Autumn 2008

[Note: the Comedy Theatre run had cast changes.]

Neil LaBute's 2004 play is an amiable rom com with a not-too-sharp sting in its tale. I can tell you a dozen things wrong with it (and probably will), but they don't really hurt what is a thoroughly enjoyable couple of midsummer hours.

A blokeish guy meets-cute with an overweight girl and they hit it off. Indeed, they fall in love, but social pressures - in the form of his even more blokeish buddy and his jealous ex - make him embarrassed to be seen in public with her.

Can the romance survive under these circumstances? If you think about it, the play could probably be equally satisfying, in different ways, with either answer to that central question, so I won't tell you which LaBute chooses, except to say that it works.

Along the way there are the light comic scenes of the unlikely couple falling for each other, the light comic scenes of our hero interacting with his buddy, and the light comic scenes of the ex-girlfriend reacting badly to being supplanted. They're all a lot of fun, and are set off nicely by the few darker and deeper moments.

So what are the flaws that I mentioned above? Let me say again that they probably won't bother you much, but for one, the basic situation is not terribly original.

The most obvious precedent is David Mamet's Sexual Perversity In Chicago, where a buddy sabotages a romance because it doesn't fit his prejudices, but you will have also seen the bloke-falls-for-unlikely-girl plot in twenty Hollywood teen movies.

Playwright LaBute served as his own director, so I have to assume that the abrupt and repeated changes in personality every character goes through are deliberate.

The buddy switches from jerk to sensitive guy and back in a blink, just as the fat girl is jolly or pathetic within seconds.

For the sake of a sight gag, our hero suddenly becomes slapstick-clumsy at one moment but never again, and another gag has him turning obsessively neat on one point but no others.

The acting is uneven, the two guys - Robert Webb as the hero and Kris Marshall as the jerk - coming out best, perhaps because their roles aren't too much of a stretch from their television experience.

Both women - fat Ella Smith and thin Joanna Page - are wooden and affectless in different ways that suggest inadequate or misguided direction.

Fat Pig isn't as sharp-edged as LaBute's other body-shape-prejudice plays like The Shape Of Things. But it's fun and mildly thought-provoking and has a couple of fine comic performances in it, and you may not wish to ask for more than that.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Fat Pig - Trafalgar Studios 2008
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