Review: COLOSSAL, Soho Theatre

An unexpectedly clever solo show from Patrick McPherson

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Guest Blog: Nia Morais on Her First Play IMRIE, Welsh Fantasy and The Dark FantasticIn Colossal, Patrick McPherson presents us with what initially seems to be a love story. As the show develops however, we gradually discover what it really is: a twisting, tricky tale of morality.

McPherson has been on the Fringe circuit for a few years now, finding success in Edinburgh and in Perth. Soho Theatre have developed a reputation for bringing the best of Fringe theatre to central London, and Colossal is yet another success.

At the top of the show McPherson, playing a character called Dan, delivers a catchy half-sung half-spoken number about the confusions of modern dating, taking us on a high speed tour of his previous relationships. Immediately there's a buzz in the theatre - the upbeat tunes, matched with relentless wit and glowing blue lights makes this an electric opening.

We learn that this particular story is about Sam, his most recent ex. We follow Dan through their relationship from beginning to end - from meeting in a club, complete with boring techno when what he really wants is ABBA - through to meeting the parents at a painfully awkward barbeque, to the arguments beginning. Their relationship is pretty typical, but the depiction of navigating dating and friendships in your twenties is relatable, and McPherson finds every ounce of comedy in everyday scenarios.

The music is also a huge part of this show. Perhaps unexpected for a one-man show about relationships, McPherson integrates songs into the storytelling, adding another layer to the performance. While in a couple of instances they border on cringeworthy, their overall benefit to the pace and structure of the show clearly outweighs the less successful moments.

Up until the end, Colossal is nothing really out of the ordinary. It's a strong solo show, but nothing we haven't seen before. Where it really comes into its own is when the bravado and comedy is stripped away, and we are forced to question everything we've just heard. McPherson breaks the fourth wall in a hugely effective way, unafraid of making his character unlikeable and confronting us with the realities of how adult relationships tend to begin and end. It's not always comfortable, but it's captivating, playing with the typical form of a solo show in an unexpectedly clever way.

Another element of Colossal that singles it out in the sea of solo Fringe shows is its lighting design - production designer Will Hayman builds the lights into the performance, using glowing blues and purples as well as an ominous flickering to intricately interact with how this story is told.

Director Susie MacDonald works well within this world, seamlessly showing us when McPherson is speaking to an unseen character onstage and when he is speaking directly to us, and making sure the pace never drops. This is complimented by simple but effective sound design by Sam MacDonald.

It's also nice to see a show about a bisexual man where his sexuality isn't the point of the narrative - queerness is incidental here in a way that's really refreshing.

McPherson himself is an effortlessly engaging performance, combining a swaggering stage presence with strong voice work that sees him switch from friendly to intimidating in a split second.

The show isn't perfect - the structure in the middle feels a little aimless at times, and Dan and Sam's relationship feels a little too generic, making it hard for us to really feel for any of the characters. McPherson's charm and infectious energy, however, make it easy to brush over these issues.

Much smarter than it initially seems, Colossal is a fast-paced, genre-bending solo performance that unpicks morality and masculinity - it's both a lot of fun and very clever, making it an excellent piece of theatre.

Colossal runs at Soho Theatre until 25 March

Photo Credit: Lydia Crisafulli




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From This Author - Katie Kirkpatrick

Currently studying for a degree in French at Oxford, Katie has previously written for A Younger Theatre and Noises Off magazine at the National Student Drama Festival, and Ed Fringe Review. She l... (read more about this author)

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