The Byre, Oct 30
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Tim Foley’s material has recently been accused of ‘stagnating’; if this is what stagnation looks like, then I’d like to put it into a blue cosmopolitan and drink it all night long.
Foley prides himself on his penchant for surprising the audience, and indeed, there are so many twists and turns in this particular play – which could well be seen as the pinnacle of his self-penned theatrical dabblings – that it is very difficult to say anything about the plot without writing ‘SPOILERS’ in large capital letters before curious readers inadvertently ruin the show for themselves. So I will tread as carefully as I can.
The show revolves around two sets of gay parents, males Frankie (Frazer Hadfield) and Alex (Ed Fry) and females Sandra (Mimi von Schack) and Frank (Mandarr Brandi), who have met up in the male couple’s house to discuss an ‘incident’ between the children of the two couples, Tommy and Dickie. After some hilariously awkward polite conversation, Frankie ends up swallowing the only key to the flat and, upon attempting to leave the apartment, the female pair discovers that Frankie had previously turned the door around, meaning the four of them, along with escort Molly (Jennifer Russell) are trapped inside the house. Eventually, exasperation, desperation and pure madness start to kick in and we are left digesting some rather shocking revelations as the curtain falls.
The acting and direction throughout this show is nothing short of phenomenal: Frazer Hadfield plays the eccentric, camp and assumed mentally ill actor Frankie with exceptional verve and dynamism and prances around the stage with the energy of a 7-year old. His character creates and moulds an intricate web of truth versus fiction throughout the show, a particularly impressive element of the writing, blurring the lines between what is true and what is fabricated. Yet still the audience does leave clearly knowing and understanding the difference between the two. Frazer pulls this off with consummate ease, precariously walking the tightrope between sanity and insanity with almost Gollum-like effect. All the while he times the comedic punch lines immaculately, some of which included indulgent childish innuendos involving sausages.
Another highlight, perhaps the show stealer, was the perfectly cast Mimi von Schack’s as the overbearing, overly-paranoid mother, so much so that it’s difficult to imagine anyone playing the role better. Mandarr Brandi’s almost dead-pan approach in the first half took a while to get used to, but she eventually came into the role a little more as the play unfolded, while Jennifer Russell’s pseudo-cameo as a drunk prostitute was deservedly treated with whoops and cheers from the receptive audience. Ed Fry’s character Alex was perhaps the least well defined, and Fry could have tackled the life-changing decision at the end with a little more emotion, but he portrayed the typical ‘hard outer shell’ of a man very well. I was left wanting a little more resolution in the story of the female couple at the end – I feel their tale was left hanging, although there was of course room for interpretation.
On a final note, let’s just take a moment to examine what Tim Foley has actually achieved here: he has written and directed a musical and four plays in the past three years, taking two of them to the Edinburgh Fringe and receiving numerous four and five star reviews. While this is a highly impressive achievement in itself, he has done this alongside studying for an English degree. As an avid Doctor Who fan, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tim is hiding away a TARDIS , surely that’s the only way he has has enough time! I’m sure a few of us would like to borrow it.