Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig, presented by The Blue Room Theatre and Red Ryder Productions, offers a lot of food for thought, and this production goes down a treat.
LaBute examines the situation of Tom (Brendan Ewing) who has fallen in love with Helen (Alicia Oskaya), and looks at how he decides to deal with the misplaced hostilities launched at him by his peers for dating a fat woman. Seeing this tale of “forbidden love” from Tom’s point of view is an interesting and worthy choice because it helps to complete the picture of what our prejudices do to other people.
Director Emily McLean has assembled a strong ensemble. Oskaya and Ewing have the right kind of chemistry to make their mutual attraction believable, while their supports, Will O’Mahony as Carter, Tom’s mischievous and cruel office buddy, and Georgia King as Jeannie, the rebuffed former lover from Accounts, challenge Tom’s will and test his patience. The dynamic between Ewing and O’Mahony is especially satisfying. O’Mahony is the perfect devil on Ewing’s shoulder, his arguments are seductive because they’re delivered with charm, even though we know he’s just a jerk. King delivers a high-strung, paranoid Jeannie and she makes it abundantly clear why Tom would rather be with someone completely unlike her.
Oskaya gives the kind of performance that makes you wish the author would have explored Helen’s point of view more thoroughly, so that this actress could shine even more; she’s got a very natural and genuine presence on stage, and immediately wins our favour as Helen. Ewing does a fine job taking us on Tom’s journey and we feel how torn he is and how heavily the pressure from his peers weighs on him.
The staging was unusual – the show opens with a scene change. It is unclear why the director chose to start the show with the set pieces clustered in the middle of the stage and then have the actors re-set them for the opening scene before the first word of dialogue was uttered. Subsequent scene changes required a lot of lengthy orchestration, which tended to loosen the pace somewhat. They felt like balletic furniture and prop interludes and were somewhat cumbersome, finely choreographed though they were. Light and sound by Joe Lui is always a treat; here he paints with blue and orange light on Fiona Bruce’s compact, IKEA-strong set, and the resulting look is bold and crisp.
The final scene was played at the far corner of the room, which distanced us from its inherent emotion As a result we were left with an unresolved feeling and the end of the piece lacked a sense of finality. Nevertheless, the questions raised through Tom’s final decision are essentially what we take away from this funny (sometimes inappropriately funny) and bittersweet story.
Now if only we could turn the tables and hear Helen’s side of the story.