Edinburgh Fringe 2019, The Bush Theatre London
Coming to The Ambassadors Theatre for a West End Run in April 2020
Also: BAM, New York
Run: London: 2nd April - 2nd May
New York: 21st May - 13th June
Writer: Richard Gadd
Starring: Richard Gadd (one-person show)
Director: Jon Brittain
Design: Cecilia Carey
Sound Design: Keegan Curran
Lighting Design: Peter Small
Richard Gadd won the Edinburgh Fringe comedy award in 2016 for his stand-up show: Monkey See, Monkey Do. But this is not comedy – this is about Gadd’s stalker. It all started when a woman, Martha, came into a bar, claiming to have a high-powered job but couldn’t afford a cup of tea. Gadd, who was working at the bar at the time, gave her a cuppa for free. This action led to years of emails, voicemails and phone calls - these are projected into the space and each chilling word is typed onto the ceiling of the venue. The sound and lighting are subtle and work to accentuate the formidable energy emanating from Gadd. An empty bar stool in the middle of the stage symbolises Martha’s presence, but she is not confined to that - she is everywhere. Gadd paces the stage, unable to turn his back to a point for any length of time. He is calm when telling the story but there is a frantic quality to his movements and voice, as if the ridiculousness of the situation is dawning on him for the very first time
Although officially in the ‘theatre’ category at the Fringe you can tell that this was written by a comedian. Not because it makes serious problems into light-hearted one-liners, but because it makes the issue of stalking accessible and real for anyone with moments of well-judged comedy. Before stepping into Summerhall at Edinburgh, I thought stalking was something that happened only to celebrities and usually materialised in “I’m your biggest fan can I have your autograph again, please?” I am ashamed of my ignorance, but I don’t believe that I am alone.
I saw this show almost six months ago and thought I would struggle to write a response worthy of the masterpiece now, looking back. However, the impressions that I experienced on the 16th August 2019 were so compelling that I can take myself back to that moment instantly. I can remember being at a loss at what to do with all the thoughts in my head and just thinking over and over again: What would I do? The writing is brutal, stark and utterly thought-provoking. It is hard to define theatre and I do not pretend to attempt to do so but I believe that each show should shed light on the everyday. This show illuminates stalking as a problem we must be talking about.
It’s haunting but not scary, if anything there is an honesty here that is hard to come by in theatre, even in one person shows tackling true stories. I felt chilled to the bone and yet safe in the clutches of Gadd’s honesty. He discloses some deeply personal information throughout the monologue, but the truthfulness is what makes this show tick. Only if we know the whole story, with every small detail, can we even begin to grasp the situation before us. Gadd takes us on an emotional journey, a full circle of pointing the finger. Is it his fault? Is it her fault? Is the police’s fault? Who’s to blame?
I am thrilled that this has come to the West End for yet more people to experience. I urge you to go, if only just to see how an empty bar stool and a cuddly soft toy can make you feel a hundred emotions. Having seen this show progress from the small Edinburgh Fringe venue to the Bush Theatre it will be interesting to note how this intimate production works in the much larger Ambassadors Theatre. Although, I don’t think I can ride this impassioned roller-coaster a third time so if you do act on my recommendation please do let me know what it’s like.
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