The comedian’s dizzying and chilling debut play transfers to the Bush Theatre after an award-winning run at the Fringe – ★★★★
Its opening is one of the best I’ve seen on-stage in recent months. With sweeping, disorientating projections and visuals, director Jon Brittain – alongside Peter Small and Ben Ball on lighting and video design respectively – the flood of messages received by actor Richard Gadd from his stalker, ‘Martha’, are presented with haunting and overwhelming reality.
‘Martha’ is represented by a barstool. Her character only personified through a chilling laugh, voicemails and Gadd’s sudden switches into her Northern accent. Darting between characters and thoughts with uncompromising pace, the actor’s performance of his monologue is as tireless, relentless and revelatory as ‘Martha’s fixation and pursuit.
With an alarming pace, we see Gadd’s stalker finding herself embedded in every aspect of his life: his home, his career, and his relationship with Terri, a transgender woman. Gadd’s anxieties around ‘normativity’ and “trans shame” are incredibly unpleasant. For a play with an element of hindsight, there’s no clear indication about whether Gadd’s previous transphobic views are still held today, or fully rectified – only a sense of regret at the situation in which he found itself.
If one is able to perceive the rest of the play aside from the blatant transphobia, then Baby Reindeer is an intense and haunting multi-media production which toys with boundaries and binaries. We see victimhood in both characters, as well as intensity. We sense the alternation between Gadd’s sympathy and resentment, and we witness ‘Martha’s impact on the many aspects of Richard’s life – as he himself puts it so succinctly – “all within the realms of legality”.
Clocking in at 70 minutes, Baby Reindeer spirals into unnerving psychodrama, it’s finale striking a tone which lingers. It is disturbing, raw, unnerving and absolutely devastating.
Baby Reindeer is now playing at the Bush Theatre until 9 November.
Production Images: Andrew Perry.
Disclaimer: I was invited to watch Baby Reindeer for free in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for this review and all opinions stated are honest and my own.