With opening night a mere month (or less) away, I keep having dreams about giving birth. I'm sleeping very little (unrelated to the content of my dreams). My stomach is acting up. Why would anyone put themselves through this thing called 'directing a play'? Well, for several wonderful reasons, mostly to do with he joys of creative efforts. But above all, the play's the thing.
Last year, looking for a play to direct, I asked Pauliina – the girl who, incidentally, ended up playing the leading lady in our production – for recommendations. She has an extensive library of new-ish plays and can always be trusted to come up with ideas. I knew I wanted to direct something contemporary with a fairly small cast. She gave me a few plays to read, and immediately Neil LaBute’s ‘Fat Pig’ struck a chord with me. But why?
It feels very current. The people it depicts, their behaviour and dilemmas. All of it. Body image, body-shaming, obsessive relationship with food, self-medicating with food or exercise, commitment issues and a shallow attitude towards dating and partners. The play premiered off-Broadway in 2004, which – gasp – is already more than 10 years ago, and yet I’d say it rings even truer today.
Selfies and mobile dating apps. Never before has the dating pool been so much about the images we project into the world, and never before have we been so casual about rejection and acceptance. Swipe right, swipe left – based on what you think someone looks like or just how they’d like to be seen. In an environment like this, what happens to real human emotions and fears? How do we cope with intimacy, honesty and the inevitable flaws we encounter in others as well as ourselves?
In my view, ‘Fat Pig’ is a moving, clever, if dark comedy about how difficult dating and opening up to a new person can be. It’s also an accurate portrayal of, let’s be frank, Open Office Hell and certain types of workmate relations. We all have our baggage and can recognize the foolishness portrayed on stage.
The characters of the play are funny but also heart-breaking examples of perhaps how not to deal with insecurities and bad experiences. The play is provocative and doesn’t let the audience off the hook easily. What would you do? How would you feel if…? A comedy that makes you think. That’s something. One that may also make you cry a little because it smacks of truth, that’s special.