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The Age

Laughter wrung from a litany of life's tragedies

Author: Helen Thomson
Date: 12/04/2003
Words: 408
          Publication: The Age
Section: News
Page: 19

This Playbox contribution to the Comedy Festival is Tony Ayres' first stage work in a distinguished career of film writing.

The Fat Boy is a rather odd play, but then it is intended to be just that. Its subject is the outsider, and in the hapless Trevor - fat, gay, lonely and working class - Ayres has summed up everything that constitutes a loser in today's beauty and charm-obsessed society.

But the oddity goes further than Trevor's characterisation. For much of the time it seems as though two plays are running simultaneously, that there's been an odd splicing of genres. Trevor's story is dead funny - literally so, as it turns out, yet the other characters, those whose lives Trevor fatally touches, seem mired in personal tragedy.

When, for example, Trevor's first night as a babysitter results in the baby being found dead in her cot by her parents, the laughs definitely switch off. They return with a vengeance every time Trevor's sex-obsessed, foul-mouthed, heavy-drinking, diabetic mother Hope is on stage. Kate Fitzpatrick in this role reminds us just what a terrific comic actor she is.

Tim Richards gives a sad, funny, touching performance as Trevor, quite an achievement given the character's unglamorous nature and his propensity to cause havoc wherever he goes. Caroline Bock (Samantha), Blair Venn (Darren), Joseph Manning (James) and Melia Naughton (Megan) perform well in a plot that has them mostly playing ``straight" to Trevor and Hope's comic exchanges.

The improbable plot resolution, devastatingly tragic, and the rather feeble ending, indicate the play's shortcomings in terms of fully developed character and plot. There are interesting glimpses into the sadness of gay life, matched by dissatisfactions in heterosexual relationships. Ayres has us laughing almost exclusively at misfortune of one kind or another; sometimes it works, at others the laughter seems transgressive without point.

Director Tom Healey keeps the pace pumped up, choreographer Grant Dale makes an enormously enjoyable contribution, and lighting designer Paul Jackson does brilliant things, all making this production stylish and watchable.

Tony Ayres is no novice, and The Fat Boy is entertaining - though too long - yet somehow falls between mainstream and gay theatre, its focus never entirely clear. Much is redeemed, however, by the fine acting.

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