In Doody, which is streaming at Living Record as part of the Brighton Fringe, we find a twenty-five minutes piece which is basically on the theme of toxic masculinity. A blackly comic monologue written by Caitlin Magnall-Kearns, performed by Aaron Hickland as the unhinged Niall, this show starts with a childhood disappointment and highlights the attention-seeking behaviour of a Jekyll and Hyde character.
Tightly performed by Hickland, who can make Niall as charming as can be one moment and a cold-eyed monster the next, Doody is far from an easy watch. At times it is downright uncomfortable to watch a twisted and tormented adult who still carries of the scars of being overlooked for the role of Danny Zuko is Grease (cast as Doody instead, hence the title). He talks to a hand puppet, who he calls Sandy and both loves and abuses, and refers constantly to the overbearing presence of “Mummy”, correcting his infantile language each time.
Dark, low-budget, and showcasing a man who blames anyone and everything around him for what has become in his crushing disappointment through life, Doody benefits from music by Katie Richardson which captures the electro pop of the early eighties. The set is a room which is decorated by photographs of women defaced in red pen (perhaps signposting a disturbing side of this man a little too obviously). Niall wears the leather jacket beloved of Grease and the hairstyle of the period and is not just stuck in the past but totally immersed in his cucle of anger and pain.
Doody packs in a lot of changing emotions which intensify over its short running time. Not evertything clicks, but this works well as a fly on the wall piece, highlighting the danger of taking surface charm on trust. I found it definitely best to listen on headphones, due to both sound quality and the density of the script. The constant breaks in the film give a sense of voyeurism through the lens of a security camera, leading us to wonder where Niall is and why he is there.
Fringe rating: ****
Doody is streaming through the Living Record at the Brighton Fringe until 27 June. Tickets £6) here.