Seeing the cast of this show, I was reminded of the villains of Roald Dahl’s seminal adventure Fantastic Mr Fox. The trio of blood-thirsty farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean are memorably described as “One short, one fat, one lean”; the characters in David Hendon’s new play are similarly defined by their physicality, but fortunately they’re much less mean-spirited.
Carl (Dominic Jones) is a skinny rake of a thing caught between dreams of muscularity and the reality of his bulimia. Cameron (Taofique Folarin) has bulked up with a steroid-assisted gym addiction and achieved D-list celebrity as a model with a side order of social media obsession. Phil (Mark Philip Compton) is knocking forty and distinctly rotund – not a good place to be on the looks-focussed gay scene.
In the first half of the show, Hendon allows each to tell their individual stories. These feel sincere though slightly insubstantial, as the predominant tone is one of hapless “How did this happen to me?” rather than the much stronger emotions that surely inform issues around body issues.
There can be a limit to the dramatic appeal of parallel monologues, so it’s encouraging when in the second act Hendon contrives to bring the disparate trio into the same setting. Phil is a professional photographer who has hired Carl as an assistant, and Cameron arrives as a client hoping to prolong his celebrity with a tasteful-but-alluring calendar.
Although it’s refreshing to see the characters interacting, the actual storyline feels like a digression from the themes of the play, which made me wonder if Hendon was quite sure what he wanted to say about the issues he raises.
It all ends rather sweetly with a group hug and selfie. There may not ultimately be a great deal of insight on offer over the course of this hour-long show, but there’s a touching sense of camaraderie between the performers, who for all their different shapes and experiences are bound by something much kinder than mean old Boggis, Bunce and Bean.
Written by: David Hendon
Directed by: Chris Davis and Sam Luffman
Produced by: Full Disclosure Theatre
Playing until: 2 February 2020
Booking link: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/body-talk/