Me, as a Penguin

Tom Wells’s Me, as a Penguin, performed this August by Exeter University Theatre Company, is both a fun and melancholy look at loneliness, love and family. Stitch is living with his heavily pregnant sister Liz and her unprepared husband Mark in Hull, trying to give his social and sexual identity the space it needs to bloom. A voracious knitter, Stitch has left his job working with wool in a tiny seaside town to explore city life, with hopes of finding love and the poetic. But when a romantic encounter gets complicated, and penguins are dragged into proceedings, Stitch – and everyone around him – is forced to confront reality.

Tempered throughout with off-kilter comedy, Me, as a Penguin is a bashful exploration of misfits and identity, open arms and family.

It has to be said that the tone of the play is excellently judged by cast and crew alike. A piece that would be easy to descend into the ridiculous or the soppy and nostalgic is handled with care, resulting in a performance that hits the right balance between funny and thoughtful. This is due in no small part to the care taken in establishing the various relationships. Each character is developed slowly, and their interactions with others are never taken for granted; this leaves the bizarre and the difficult conversations held between them feeling authentic rather than performed. Particularly impressive are the passages of idle chit-chat – the opening scene between Stitch and Liz as a case in point – which are often quietly hilarious, and immediately recognisable to anyone who has spent time simply chewing the fat with their friends and family.

The four actors have a real sparking chemistry with one another while managing to bring entirely distinct personalities to the performance. Simon Marshall’s Stitch is brilliant: introverted, quirky and kind, Marshall gives his daydreamer the nuance he needs to function effectively as a character. His relationship with Anna Blackburn as Liz is hugely endearing and is portrayed on both sides with what looks like genuine affection. Blackburn is no-nonsense and feisty in the role, deftly moving from biting one-liner to profound set piece with skill, and George Fincher as her good-hearted but inept husband confidently pulls off a grown-boyish charm and swagger. Harry Heap’s Dave is a truly nasty guy, asserting his considerable stage presence within seconds of walking onto the set.

Tempered throughout with off-kilter comedy, Me, as a Penguin is a bashful exploration of misfits and identity, open arms and family.  

Reviews by Sam Fulton

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

The University of Exeter’s oldest student theatre company presents ‘Me, as a Penguin’, Tom Wells’ off-beat comedy-drama. In a little apartment in Hull, three people find their lives changing. Stitch is a sweetheart who’s having an identity crisis. His sister is pregnant, her husband isn’t ready, and Stitch is living on their tattered old sofa, trying not to face reality. Consisting of cake, cardigans, chaos and love, an off-limits bathroom and the biggest ‘knob’ ever to work in an aquarium, Wells’ endearing play features dynamic performances from four incredible young talents.