Rob Hayes’s comedy will strike a chord with anyone who’s had a one night stand with a dog. Or a cat. Or a goat, a monkey or a bear.
Standing in his vest and undercrackers, Jack Holden fearlessly takes on the role of Bobby, a young guy who has taken his love for animals a bit too far. A cacophony of animal calls begins each scene, and Bobby writes the species of lover on a big sheet before launching into post-coital tendresses.
Every awkward squirm and shuffle is perfectly placed by Holden. He does not know what to do with his arms, moving restlessly between folding them, scratching himself, perching them on his hips. Nerves and insecurity make him ramble and accidentally say weird or inappropriate things, which he laughs off nervously; he cuts off his own lines when he is afraid he is heading in the wrong direction, and he frowns and darts his eyes with tense embarrassment at his loose lips. He keeps worrying, too, that he has offended the animal he’s addressing. The animal never responds.
Hayes builds a surprising amount of plot progression into the script, linking each scene together not only with a story about Bobby’s notebook and the police being involved, but also looking into Bobby’s unfortunate past. When Holden describes his relationship with his father it is easy to forget the abnormality of the situation he is in, and instead to empathise.
Awkward Conversations also seems to be an exercise in challenging prejudice, or at least forcing the audience to register innate prejudice. “I can buy you,” Bobby says to a goat. “I can shave you, I can cut your balls off, I can drink your milk, I can euthanise you, I can eat you but I can’t love you.” The challenge is there to think about what else we might instinctively pre-judge.
Without Holden’s ability to be so awkward the play would suffer greatly. His Lancashire accent brings some of the grotesqueness of The League of Gentlemen to the play – along with the combination of the hideous and the mundane. Bobby is a sweet man, really, and is easy to like. But he serves as one of those much needed reminders that bestiality is really not ok.
Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve Fucked is at Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61) until 24 August. For more information and tickets visit the EdFringe website.