You wouldn’t think it to look at him but the man standing on the stage of Brewery Theatre is a God. He’s Orpheus, in fact. You know the one? Legendary musician, charmer of all, husband to the ill-fated Eurydice, prophet?
No? Well, I admit, not up on my Greek Gods either and I had to wikipedia Orpheus, which equipped me with a rough idea of his myth and the other characters in his story. But it wasn’t strictly necessary because Martin Bonger’s Fat Man guides us through easily enough, albeit it with a thoroughly modern telling.
Our Orpheus is a tragic character indeed. This greasy haired, overweight, scruffily clothed, drunken wreck of a man is a stand-up comedian, who uses his dark wit to share his past with us, a past he will never escape.
He is famous, he is the followed but, this time he is smitten and becomes the follower. It’s the tale of love conquered and shared, of love lost, regained and, ultimately, lost forever. That could be a storyline from any work of art or, indeed, any life, couldn’t it?
It could. And Bonger plays a pathetic character with whom we sympathise; most of us having felt wretched from a broken heart somewhere along the line, many of us having been wrapped in despair enough to have felt the pull of a downwards spiral that we must fight to resist. It’s a truism of being human. But Fat Man is unable to forget or move on – he is stuck in a time that no longer exists and, through his alcoholic haze and doughnut induced highs, he holds onto the belief that the music he creates still makes him among the most desirable of creatures.
Phillipe Nash’s sometimes barely perceptible music hums continuously as Orpheus engages his audience as the best stand-ups do, finding fellow Gods among us, pleading with Hades and Persephone to release his true love from the Underworld, to give the lovers another chance. But, of course, he blows it!
Fat Man fuses myth and reality with effortlessness and humour. I left the Brewery with a sense that I understood that all mortals have something in common, even when they do become … immortal.
Fat Man plays is on at Brewery Theatre until Saturday 28th March
– Review by Becky Condron