Most would agree that a cup of tea is accepted nationwide as remedy for our problems, a peacemaker, a white flag. Unfortunately for Richard Gadd, a cup of tea was the start of the horrifying events that make up his autobiographical play Baby Reindeer.
Baby Reindeer is Gadd’s solo show which recounts his experience of being stalked. Starting from the very beginning, Gadd shares his story via interviews, snippets of emails and voicemails from his stalker and of course, with his narration throughout the piece. It really is petrifying, hearing the emails that he was bombarded with every day for years, the reality of the police’s response time and to hear a retelling that without pretence or refrain, shares the intimate details of his harrowing journey.
It doesn’t seem appropriate to review the acting in this show. Although it is a dramatisation, this is not a fictional piece. Gadd is a successful comedian, writer and actor which allows him to perform with confidence and conviction, but truly, the quality which gives the piece its gravitas is Gadd’s bravery to be so devastatingly honest. The piece has the structure of a stand-up routine, but with less laughs. Granted, the beginning of the story appears at the time to be a little lighter, but as we begin to see the sinister side of things, the laughing soon stops. There is a threat in the air which isn’t brought about by twists and turns, just the truth – that his stalker could be in the room tonight. No wonder there is a feeling of mutual respect for Gadd, saluting his brazenness.
Although a one man show, Gadd isn’t alone onstage. The array of videos designed by Ben Bull, alongside the lighting designed by Peter Small, all of which is accompanied by Keegan Curran’s sound design, is a magnificent marriage of tech which gives the piece a whole new theatrical dimension. By seeing and hearing the harassment first-hand, the implications of what Gadd is saying really takes root in the audience. We don’t have to imagine how awful it was, it is blatantly obvious. The piece is almost choreographed around the tech and it allows this one man to retain interest and pace straight through.
This really is a unique piece; many shows search for hard hitting truths, but few reach the level of sincerity that Baby Reindeer does. During the bow the audience are on their feet, both in appreciation for this engaging show, but I suspect also to recognise a performance that demands such bravery.
Baby Reindeer is playing the Bush Theatre until 9 November. For more information and tickets, visit the Bush Theatre website.