Who is Duvet Dave? I’m not really allowed to say exactly who, but I can describe him. He’s an irresponsible and belligerent slacker who thinks the world owes him a living because, in his opinion, he’s a creative. He’s wrong. He’s like Jez from Peep Show, except Jez is funny.
The play begins with Dave slumped in a corner whilst a very over-acted chav (Dave’s term, not mine) has a telephone conversation next to him with two other chavs at the back of the audience. It’s a painful GCSE drama exam: grating exaggeration, uncomfortable timing and a lacklustre, lengthy set change to wrap.
Unfortunately, this was the tone for the first half. A flashback involving Dave and his university friends is so full of sighing and heavy breathing, I considered that some kind of bronchial pneumonia must be going around Bath University. People do fill silences with annoying sighs (my family are terrible for it) but not in every possible gap in the conversation. After a while it was almost surreal: a forgotten Beckett piece made up entirely of unnecessary exhalation.
However, things improve slightly in the last twenty minutes. A scene with Dave and his two successful, hard-working friends from university has one or two moments of real discomfort and the final exchange contains some sensitive observations. There are some quite good lines elsewhere in the piece too, although some actors don’t realise it.
A lack of focus undermines the good things in this production. Will Richie’s script is confused and clichéd, but he has an ear for dialogue that could be trained for better use. The performers lack energy and conviction, but occasionally they demonstrate some talent that could be developed.The overarching failure of Duvet Dave is that its protagonist is not remotely likeable. Whilst it does contain a noble message - if you want the apple from the tree, go and pick it - if you leave a production thinking ‘if anyone deserves to be homeless, that guy does’, something weird has happened. Without any sympathy for Dave, whatever we’re supposed to be getting from this piece is irrevocably lost.
This is student drama at its most basic level. Sometimes this can be endearing: we’re watching people progress, people learn. However, with so much else going on, Duvet Dave is something probably best left crumpled at the foot of the theatrical bed.