A Pair From the Fringe: Double Review of Any Womb Will Do and Who Do You See?
Gavin Roach’s Who Do You See? and Any Womb Will Do are both playing back to back at the King Street Theatre as part of the Sydney Fringe festival. Both are written by Roach, however he only appears on stage in the latter.
So, first to Any Womb Will Do. Roach plays Felix, a single, 30-something, gay male who has reached the point in his life where he wants to have children. This story is told as a single monologue and Roach has selected and presented his material well for not only is it relevant to the gay community but it is something all people can relate to, which gives it an added poignancy and depth. The humour is quite well observed, and Roach clearly has a good handle on this character whose hopes, dreams and quirks feel very genuine. At heart there is something quite tragic about a desire that may never be ascertained even though the optimistic and delightful Felix maintains his belief throughout the entirety of the performance.
Gavin Roach is an engaging performer. He delivers the comedy with crisp timing and a twinkle in his eye and can smoothly transition from the funny to the serious. Roach also maintains a good energy which is absolutely essential in a one-man show. Whilst the audience was never bored, it would have been nice to see Roach extend himself during the crucial dramatic moments, perhaps allowing for longer pauses or even letting his guard down further to really demonstrate the character’s vulnerability. Generally however, Roach gives a convincing and heartfelt performance and should be congratulated.
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Unfortunately Who Do You See? (or The Worst Show We Never Saw), although a brave piece of theatre, is not as strong. The show takes place entirely in the dark: five actors are littered around the stage and take turns narrating slices out of their day-to-day lives. As the piece progresses we slowly learn that they are all loosely connected to each other. Roach and his director, Sarah Vickery, have tried to create a different theatre experience whereby the audience is invited to construct the (purely vocal) story in their own imagination. As such many details are given as to the sights, sounds and smells in the scenes, as well as details of each character’s thought process. The idea is nice; however the show is tedious to a fault. There is very little plot to speak of, and because the characters are required to describe absolutely everything they end up reciting the most mundane actions in great detail: walking through doors, applying lotion, noticing a hand bag has been left on a table. The fault lies in the fact that Roach has written a piece of prose – not theatre – which sounds as though it’s being recited from a book, a book which focuses on the minutiae of everyday life, and unfortunately Roach is no Marcel Proust or Virginia Woolf. Ultimately, there is very little going on in these stories to hold an audience’s interest, and a dull story told in the dark is still a dull story.
Plunging an actor into total darkness is like plunging into a pool of murky water. It’s always a gamble. By removing sight completely, the performer has one less acting tool, and the audience has to work harder to understand and enjoy the story. In particular, the actor needs to have a command of language and an exemplary set of vocal skills in order to engage for a full hour (see STC’s 2011 Terminus for an example). Unfortunately, the actors in What Do You See? had little to work with and found it challenging to hold the audience.
True, it is a difficult ask, yet David Griffiths, Emma Jones, Suz Mawer, Jack Michel, Christian O’Connor should have put more time into teasing the nuances out of the story vocally, as well as making sure they were completely confident with the script and timing (clumsy trips broke the fluidity). In the end, the script is half baked and the acting (read: voice overs) is of average quality.
Although Who Do You See? will probably disappoint most theatre goers Any Womb Will Do is delightful piece which is well worth the trip in to see. (One does feel that the shows would be better inverted in their running order, giving Any Womb the earlier start time). As things stand this pair is playing at the King Street Theatre every Sunday and Monday night until the 23rd of September with Who Do You See starting at 7:30 and Any Womb Will Do straight after at 9:00. For more details or to book tickets see: