Marlowe Studio, Canterbury
Marking the first original production at the Marlowe Theatre, Beached is an impressive, astonishing feat.
The dark comedy, written by Melissa Bubnic tells the story of 67-stone Arty, the world’s largest teenager, and goes behind the scenes of a television docu-drama chronicling the run-up to his life-saving surgery.
At just 19, Arty has already had two heart attacks, and has been told if he doesn’t lose weight, and soon, he will die. And so a TV production company has offered to pay for the surgery he needs, providing he and his mother debase themselves on camera and play the roles the public expects to see: stupid, poor and lazy.
Beached packs some big themes into its short (70 minute) running time. Love, death, media manipulation, betrayal and the welfare state all make appearances, but fit together comfortably. Nothing feels out of place. What makes this more impressive is how all the play’s characters are handled by just four actors.
James Dryden plays the oversized, twinkly-eyed Arty, and gives what could easily be a pathetic, unlikeable character an enormous amount of charm and heart. His naively aggressive mother is played by a fantastic Robin Weaver, whose impeccable characterisation obliterates any memories of her many screen roles.
A simple set ensures the story and the performances do the heavy lifting, and there are some neat lighting flourishes. To be frank though, the performance could take place in massive empty black box and still be as enjoyable.
If this is the calibre of play the Marlowe can produce at the beginning of this venture, I can’t wait to see what it brings to the stage in five years’ time.
Beached will be playing at the Soho Theatre, London, throughout November. Find out more here.