Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: BABY REINDEER, Bush Theatre

Review: BABY REINDEER, Bush Theatre

BWW Review: MALORY TOWERS, York Theatre RoyalIt all started with Richard Gadd offering a lonely woman a cup of tea in a bar. Little did Gadd know that in the coming years that same woman would begin to stalk him relentlessly. In this brave monologue, Gadd walks audiences through this autobiographical story step by painful step.

A harmless gesture of kindness soon leads to Martha developing an obsessive devotion towards Gadd, though he ties this event to his own sexual abuse and the difficulties faced with his then-girlfriend Teri. Audiences quickly become aware of the symbiotic dependency Gadd and Martha share, making the former's own struggles all the more tragic.

At just over an hour long, Baby Reindeer is an effective meditation on stalking, masculinity and the ineffectual power of victims whose personal boundaries are exposed. It is unsurprising the show was so well received at the Edinburgh Fringe this year: Gadd's writing is fraught with pulsing fear and unexpected beauty, and its language, such as "She is flammable" and "my fantasies have become corroded", is arrestingly unstable.

Alongside this, Gadd manages to draw from this story often droll glimmers of humour. Whether it be his sly comments on being a comedian performing to near-empty houses, or his conversations with a policeman that highlight the ineptitude of the justice system, these brief moments of levity fit extremely well in the narrative.

The intensely personal content of the show leads to a defining performance from Gadd. Though the different accents he puts on could be committed to more, the quick modulations of anger into horror into humour he elicits from the audience demonstrates the power and near desperation of his performance.

Director Jon Brittain has wonderfully curated this production. Cecilia Carey's design feels almost like a macabre circus. A centre platform has a mini-revolve, on which Gadd places an empty barstool. From then on, Martha is vividly present in the narrative, her actual absence made up by both Ben Bull's video design and Peter Small's lighting, which powerfully overwhelms with its projections of the e-mails she sent to Gadd that wash over the audience like a deluge of data, and Keegan Curran's sound effects, most unnerving of which is Martha's hauntingly digital laugh.

Gadd's mistakes with an 'out of office' e-mail and a picture on Twitter lead to Martha having his personal contact details and she soon traumatises his family and partner. Martha sends him 1000s of e-mails and leaves him countless voicemails. The error of putting this information may lie with Gadd, but the unrelenting invasion the digital has on his personal life strikes a resonant note for all of us who, unknowingly, mistake the boundary between public and private when online.

The greatest strength of the show, however, is that it is a monologue: Gadd is alone on stage, but the unembodied power of Martha's presence is felt throughout. Though interviews with his Mother, Father and Teri are also played, that they are recordings furthers the claustrophobic isolation Gadd felt during that time. But Gadd comments "This show doesn't have a conclusion", and that is perhaps its scariest quality.

Baby Reindeer is at the Bush Theatre until 9 November.

Photograph credit: Andrew Perry.

Related Articles View More UK / West End Stories

From This Author - Anthony Walker-Cook

BWW Interview: Nancy Carroll Talks MANOR at the National Theatre
December 1, 2021

Nancy Carroll's credits include seven previous productions at the National Theatre and, recently, The Crown on Netflix. She is currently starring in the National Theatre's production of Manor, a new play by Moira Buffini.

BWW Review: WHAT A CARVE UP!, Online
November 2, 2020

At a time when live theatre has again been yanked from our grasp, the joint efforts of The Barn Theatre, The New Wolsey Theatre and The Lawrence Batley theatre to produce an adaptation of Jonathan Coe’s What a Carve Up! is a welcome tonic amidst such ever-darkening days.

The Shows That Made Us: FOLLIES
September 23, 2020

I owe a lot to Follies - friendships with fans and actors and occasional pieces of journalism have resulted from the show - but it made me realise how transformative live theatre can be. Thinking about it, it's ironic that a show signalling the death of old Broadway should ignite such a passion, but isn't that the point of Follies?

September 18, 2020

FFew performers in the industry are on top of their game like Sharon D Clarke right now. After storming performances in Caroline, or Change and Blues in the Night in London, Clarke was in rehearsals for the former show on Broadway when COVID-19 hit. From the London Coliseum, she now begins a series of online cabarets, Tonight at the London Coliseum, with brio and passion.

BWW Interview: Anoushka Lucas Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
August 23, 2020

Anoushka Lucas first played the role of Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in 2016. She has now returned to a socially distanced concert production of the show at the same venue, which is directed by Timothy Sheader.