Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 13 May 2013

Winky

Soho Theatre ⋄ 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th May, 2013

Futile nobility.

Stewart Pringle

Fat Git Theatre, whose mission statement is to ‘expose and question our contemporary perceptions of ugliness’, sound a perfect fit for George Saunders’ grotesquely heroic short stories. The Texan writer, whose short story Winky first appeared in The New Yorker in 1997, is a Kurt Vonnegut for the Dilbert generation, spinning tales of futile nobility in the face of a world of mass-production and uncaring corporatism. Keeping things rough, ready, straightforward and short, the Gits have created a sweet, sincere and very funny miniature.

We begin at a gruesome self-help seminar presented by greasy shyster Tom Rodgers (brilliantly skewered by Ed Davis), who asks us to consider who exactly it is who’s been ‘crapping in our oatmeal’. Its Randian rhetoric is all too credible; Rodgers intoning his cable-ready catchphrase ‘now is the time for me to win!’, his audience sorted into colour coded categories of personal ineptitude. Enter our ‘hero’, Neil Yaniky (Joe Boylan), a classic Saunders loser who spends his evenings soldering triangles in his basement and his days inwardly cursing his tatty oddball of a sister, the religious child-woman Winky. Winky is Neil’s oatmeal crapper, and with Rodgers’ help he forms a new resolve to do something about it.

It takes some time to get going, despite the deadpan wit of narrator Lauren Stone, with Fat Gits’ adaptation sticking a little too closely to Saunders’ spartan text, and the satirical targets set rather too low. The beauty of the piece sneaks in through the back, swelling through Winky’s demented monologue, with winning performer Amy Tobias preparing the house for her brother’s return. As she wheels around the stage burbling about her musical ambitions and her bald spot, the caricature melts, and the story vibrates with the kind of quiet humanity that warms the best of Daniel Kitson or Alan Bennett.

Director Josh Roche displays a strong sense of timing and confident understatement, and the cast are universally compelling. The kind of aesthetic Fat Git have chosen – Poundland trolley dash, ironic fairy lights, crap all over the place – is beginning to grate with overuse, but here it’s never allowed to take over. So while it would be refreshing to see young theatre companies take a step back from this slightly patronising faux-merz vocabulary, Fat Git are more sensitive and adept at its deployment than most.

A short story becomes a small play, performed with an intelligence and honesty that becomes its source material, and one that’s well worth catching. It’s sure to have a future life though; it certainly deserves one. Winky is over as quickly as it’s begun, but it leaves a persistent glow, like a bowl of Ready Brek (sans faeces).

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Stewart Pringle

Writer of this and that and critic for here and there. Artistic director of the Old Red Lion Theatre.

Winky Show Info


Produced by Fat Git Theatre

Directed by Josh Roche

Link http://sohotheatre.com/

Running Time 55 mins (no interval)

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