Freaky Geese bring their production of Dead Outdoorsy to the London fringe, directed by Cara Vaitilingam. It is refreshingly Northern, sharply Millennial, and definitely engaging.
Polly is a lover and an eco-warrior. In Molly Barton’s first full-length play, the issues of sex, belonging, and the climate create a heady brew in which our heroine recounts her escapades to date.
Plays with numerous characters, but one performer often has other people created by a change of voice or costume. There is a bit of that here, but not consistently.
Although Barton is the only actor on stage, other characters – and I counted at least twelve – are (mainly) represented by recorded voices.
This stylistic touch works for and against Dead Outdoorsy. Polly is, and should be, our main focus, but her therapy sessions seem to cry out for another body on stage, while at the garden centre we see colleagues and customers conjured up in close caricature.
Dead Outdoorsy is very frank about sex, often hilarious (Barton is a fine physical performer and a good wordsmith), but sometimes skates over dark moments like intimate problems, mean girl gossiping, and borderline sexual abuse.
Although billed with a running time of 60 minutes, Sunday’s performance was closer to 70, and it did run a little out of steam by the end.
Still, I liked how Polly grew from the girl who nurtured a false slutty reputation to a powerhouse of climate education.
Men drift in and out of Polly’s life, not always with much success or fanfare. Although I felt one or two (Gareth, the best friend; Stephen, the boss’s son) were well-drawn, some felt unfinished and there simply to make a point.
Staged mainly in an armchair or in an area of fake plants, Dead Outdoorsy does manage to place us in various locations, from a school classroom to a demo, a cafe to a police station.
The lighting (by Ben Winter) is brisk and often emotive. Polly’s red-lit fantasies are particularly amusing as she seeks one physical connection after another.
Every man is objectified in a world where this young woman sells herself short and bats away anything more than forms of penetration and quickies in the azaleas.
In the end, finding a purpose with a man who doesn’t use her, there may be hope for this strong and committed woman, but I left feeling a twinge of concern.
Polly surely has more to tell us once she finds her feet, and Molly Barton is a fascinating new voice.
Dead Outdoorsy has one more performance at the Drayton Arms at 7.30pm on 24 April. Details here.