Doody is a twenty-five-minute gem showing online as part of this year’s Brighton Fringe Festival, in collaboration with NSDF x Spotlight. The piece is a darkly comic one-man monologue, written by Caitlin Magnall-Kearns and performed by Aaron Hickland, which centres around the grudges still held by protagonist Niall, who lost out on the role of Danny Zuko in his school production of Grease ten years ago.
As the premise may suggest, the play is every bit as ridiculous as it is dark; and this balancing act is one of its greatest strengths. Doody is very entertaining, if you can look past Niall’s deadly streak to find the humour in his convoluted motives and unhinged personality. This is not too difficult due to the inherent campiness of the piece and evident insecurity of the character. He gives himself off-screen pep-talks, obsesses over his sock puppet ‘Sandy’ and frustratedly corrects his references to ‘mummy’ throughout the piece.
Magnall-Kearns’s script is hilarious, unpredictable and more than a bit absurd. However, in the hands of talented storyteller Hickland, the play is presented as a well-paced, genuine and completely engaging account of an unhinged man’s resentment from a lifetime of being second best. Hickland navigates the various shots from light-hearted confessionals to intense close-ups with complete ease, and knows how to turn his endearing smile on its head in an instant.
This production is marketed as exploring toxic masculinity and it certainly does, though not in the ways you might expect. Sure enough, Niall is partial to some crude jokes, misogyny, and the obvious violence he displays. However it is his entitlement, immaturity and pride which really make him tick. Simple references to his mummy capturing everything he did as a child on video and his teacher praising him for being such an enthusiastic reader in class really inform Niall’s unstable need for validation. Doody may take it to a seemingly silly extreme, but there is a real message here about the dangerous attitudes which can be instilled in men from a young age.
The production value of this online piece is simple but very effective. The dimly lit, homemade quality of the recording really works due to the confessional style of the play and the blood-stained photos on the back wall appropriately set the tone from the outset, whilst actually being believable as Niall’s décor. Music by Katie Richardson, suitably camp and reminiscent of the 80s era of Grease, also assists in building tension and momentum throughout the piece. Like Hickland’s understated performance as Niall, nothing about the production feels overdone; it is easy to believe that this is the kind of tape Niall would put together to tell his story.
Doody’s dark, and occasionally crude, humour may mean it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the piece is executed superbly and is a prime example of how to create high-quality online theatre on a low budget.
Doody is playing online until 27 June. For more information and tickets, see Brighton Fringe’s website.