Rob Hayes’s new play has such a wonderful title that you’d forgive the playwright if the words ‘Awkward Conversations with Animals I’ve Fucked’ wrote a cheque that the actual content didn’t cash. In fact, it’s an entirely literal description.
Puny, nerdy Bobby (an excellent Jack Holden) strides on in his underpants, writes the word ‘DOG’ in marker on the paper screen behind him, then launches into a hilarious, excruciating post-coital chat with an unseen, unspeaking hound who he did in fact fuck last night. ‘You sniffed me like you meant it,’ he giggles, coyly. As the hour wears on, his conquests multiply – I won’t offer any species spoilers, but it’s safe to say that he builds he way from the domestic to the more ambitious.
It’s funny because it’s absurd – the acts Bobby refers to in the past tense all seem so improbable that it’s hard not to laugh at the idea of this awkward young man having lusty, energetic sex with a succession of man’s best friends. No animals were harmed in the making of Edward Stambollouian’s production, and I think if you’re onboard with the title, you won’t have any problem with the content.
And it’s not, ultimately, a yucks-all-the-way gross out comedy. Bobby is a sad figure but not a squalid one. He’s pitiful, alienated, alone explaining himself to the unspeaking animals as he’s slowly, inexorably edged out of society. It’s not hard to see the play as an examination of the lot of paedophiles, of how weird and pitiful it must be excluded from civilisation by a piece of malfunctioning sexual hardwiring.
I don’t think Hayes ever quite extracts a killer point out of all this, but certainly his ballsy, original play has a depth and poignancy that endures long after you’ve stopped LOLing at the name.
By Andrzej Lukowski