I was excited about Flies. An award-winning theatre company. A sold-out show. An eager looking crowd. A delicious cheese toastie in preparation. I was ready to be swept away on an absurdist wave. Sadly, Les Enfants Terribles and Pins & Needles didn't quite deliver on their promises of leaving my "skin crawling with fear and mind buzzing with excitement." It was definitely absurdist. Definitely energetic. But it never quite managed to draw me into its world as much as I'd hoped.
The live-mixed music and foley work is excellent. It punctuates the narration and action with heck-tons of energy.
Flies is billed as an absurdist tale. You can expect moral ambiguity, a non-traditional plot structure, and plenty of odd human (and fly) behaviour. The plot focuses upon Dennis (George Readshaw), who is terrified of flies. Dennis is so terrified of the titular insect, that he's sealed himself in his house, taping up the cracks in the walls and doors. A suave fly (Piers Hampton) in a tuxedo delights in telling the audience how he "took a sh*t on your food", all because he doesn't like you. Flies is about a bored psychiatrist (also Piers Hampton) who may or may not be a figment of Dennis's crazed imagination. It features three blokes on a stage running around for an hour, making music, playing different characters, and narrating action as they go.
The tuxedoed fly bookends the play with effective and creepy monologues about Old Mother Hubbard, starving children in Africa, and crawling into your ear to lay maggots in your brain. The live-mixed music (by Kid Carpet) and foley work (by Harry Humberstone) is excellent, and punctuates the narration and action with heck-tons of energy. The energy remains high throughout the whole piece, which is also one of the things I struggled with. For a show with so much inventiveness it often fell flat. The frantic scenes failed to reach into the realms of the truly absurd. The space felt messy, instead of wilfully chaotic.
I needed a bit more from Flies. The fat-shaming gags, mildly sexist vibes, poverty references and mental-health tropes were a little heavy-handed. This kind of commentary can alienate rather than entertain, and I don't want to just laugh at cheap gags. I need more nuance, even, especially when looking through the lens of the absurd.