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BWW Review: DID IT HURT?/HI. I'M DAVID, King's Head Theatre

BWW Review: DID IT HURT?/HI. I'M DAVID, King's Head Theatre

BWW Review: DID IT HURT?/HI. I'M DAVID, King's Head TheatreFringe festivals can be places where performances are to be endured, rather than enjoyed. Fortunately, they can also showcase absorbing and innovative work. As part of Playmill, the King's Head Theatre's exciting season of brand new work, two new productions demonstrate both great potential and thoughtful insight.

Did It Hurt? is the darkly comic new work from Michael Faulkner and Joshua Poole, who make up the duo Seventy30. It explores the themes of toxic masculinity and male mental health issues in a stark, thought-provoking show.

The stage is set with two chairs, some cardboard boxes and a white tannoy playing intermittent music ranging from Eminem to Britney Spears. Two young men are sharing this space and cannot leave; there is nothing to do but start to talk.

Paul is moody and short tempered. He doesn't really want to talk, but we learn that he grew up in a working-class family, calling himself a chav. He likes lager and a packet of crisps, but is also partial to Mozart. Jean went to public school and is polite, eager to engage, was on the chess team and likes Pinot Noir. They have little in common, but as time passes, we learn that both men share struggles with feelings of depression, loneliness and worthlessness.

Michael Faulkner plays Paul; he conveys the anger and frustration at the hard hand life has played him very well. He sticks his hands in his pockets and stamps around the stage in bare feet. He snaps at Jean; mocking his choice of alcoholic drink, his lack of sporting prowess, calling him gay. Joshua Poole takes the part of Jean. He physically recoils at Paul's more vicious words and projects a gentle, more thoughtful and likable character.

The conversation has a very natural flow and a dark realism, but both performers could project a little more. One of the important messages is the universal nature of mental illness; in one respect the production succeeds as it shows two very different characters, driven to desperate measures, but Faulkner's portrayal of Paul is too middle-class to be convincing as a 'chav'. His accent, his hair and clothes are too similar to Jean. They span a social spectrum only through what they say, rather than what they are.

However, this is a very promising production, with a stark and vital message. You can catch it again at the Camden Fringe between 6-11 August.

Hi. I'm David is a one-man show that also explores mental health, but takes the form of David making a presentation to the audience as he graduates from his therapy programme. David has come a long way in exploring and coming to terms with his past so he can move onto his future. The result is a production that comes across as a stream of David's consciousness, touching on themes of anxiety, bullying, body shaming, how to choose a type of coffee and the loss of an important relationship.

In terms of coming through therapy, it would be more realistic to see David acknowledge any faults or mistakes he has made. However, David is very much the victim in events throughout his life such as his childhood bullying, his mother's constant criticism and the end of his relationship. A few topics at the top of the show could also be shortened, simply to make the show feel tighter.

Tom Giles takes on the role of David; he conveys a character who is hugely likeable and a bit pathetic, with a friendly West Country burr and skittish nervous energy as he pours his heart out. It takes a skillful actor, with a very engaging script to carry a one-man show. Giles succeeds on both accounts and is absorbing and funny as David and inhabits the character completely.

Giles jumps from in depth and well observed descriptions of the primal quality of his anger to tender and melancholy memories of kisses shared with his ex-boyfriend. It is a bittersweet, sensitive and affecting show.

The show runs again on 15 July as part of Playmill.

Playmill runs at the King's Head Theatre until 21 July

Photo Credit: Did It Hurt? for King's Head Theatre

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From This Author Aliya Al-Hassan