Awkward Conversations with Animals I've F*cked is f*cking great. My jaw didn’t drop; it fell through the floor, made its way past the earth’s crust and came out the other end. The beauty of awkwardness is that it can slip from hilarity to heartache and then back again faster than you can say ‘heavy petting.’ Awkward Conversations does exactly that but with such subtlety and such grace that it’s often impossible to know what to feel at any one moment. The balance resembles a ballerina on a razor’s edge: utterly stunning.
The play lures the audience closer and closer to the edge of their seats. By the end I was about to fall into the next row.
Jack Holden plays the increasingly desperate lothario Bobby who delves into the love that dare not speak its name, primarily because it cannot speak. The world around him seems to be breaking in instalments. He loses his laptop and then his home and all the while he seeks comfort in the arms of increasingly extravagant animals. Like a junkie who experiments with gateway drugs, Bobby soon finds himself hooked on the harder stuff.
Holden’s performance is flawless. He makes us fall in love with him seemingly without effort and then proceeds to slowly break our hearts for an hour. The nervous tics, the excruciating pauses, the artless tenderness; they all combine into a master class of acting. Holden impresses both in the detail and in the general effect, demonstrating just what a one-man show can do.
The new script by Rob Hayes is not so much touched by genius as making outright love with genius. The jokes never feel forced but arise naturally from the drama, which is incredible considering the immense quantity and quality of them. More impressive still is that beneath these jokes there throbs a vein of melancholy always threatening to break the surface. When it finally does the effect is magnificent. Awkward Conversations reveals itself to be a poignant tale about a human humanity forgot.
The visual design of the show is also fantastic. To describe it in any detail would be to give it away, but with striking simplicity it sets up the play’s premise and gets laughs even before Holden starts speaking. Also, there is a lovely use of Ella Fitzgerald’s Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love) at the beginning of the show, a small clue of the wit and subtlety of the play itself.
The play lures the audience closer and closer to the edge of their seats. By the end I was about to fall into the next row. Weird and wonderful, this is a conversation you can’t afford to miss.