Lardo pretty much has everything you need for a good, solid chunk of entertainment. It is riotous in humour and violence, with all its own stunts, never seeming to stop for breath or slow down. There’s no need for Lardo to hover its foot over the brake because the audience don’t need to think – they are being consistently walloped with hit after hit of unadulterated entertainment. It’s multi-layered yet unpretentious and its take home value is unapologetically the sure-fire knowledge that you’ve had a bloody good night, no more no less. I had to drag a fella to the Old Red Lion kicking and screaming ‘I don’t like theatre, let me play Fifa!’. A couple of hours later he was kicking and screaming because he didn’t want it to be over, buzzing with an overflow of adrenaline. Similarly, I didn’t think I liked wrestling but found myself cheering, jeering and shaking with eagerness to go through it all over again when it was all over.
Lardo (Daniel Buckley) is a chubby wannabe wrestler, who has become quite the YouTube sensation with videos that hype up his wrestling persona. He certainly looks the part in an ill-fitting, Sharpie-customised leotard, that snuggly envelops all that dangles, finished off with a bum bag home to a Hulk Hogan figurine. The doll is the only memento Lardo has left from his father who, legend has it, died in the ring. Spurred on by his father’s idolised legacy, Lardo is determined to make it in wrestling, beginning with Tartan Wrestling Madness.
It is impossible not to fall hook, line and sinker for Lardo’s unique charm. Buckley is charismatic, and naturally hilarious. He is effortless in his ability to entertain; every little movement and gesture seems to be effectively lovable and perfectly imperfect. He’s got a powerful set of puppy dog eyes on him too. It is particularly fitting in this classic tale of the underdog: a fatherless, bullied, fat kid with a pregnant girlfriend (Laura Darrall), who wants to make it as a wrestling superstar and who manages it. He wins over his crowd with wiggles and uncrushable exuberance for his theatrical sport.
The dark side of the plot comes in the form of Stairs (Nick Karimi), an ex-wrestler with a grudge and owner of Tartan Wrestling Madness. He is manipulative, delusionally self-assured and pathologically unhinged. The audience is uneasy as the control he has over our reaction becomes more and more blatantly limitless. What and who will he control next and what damage is he prepared to cause? He has no sense of when to stop and no desire to either. His feisty female wrestling star Mary, or Whiplash, (Zoe Hunter) has bore the brunt of him before and is still living with the consequences, without the heart to escape. Hunter’s character, as well as being in enviable shape, is an extremely empathetic rough diamond. She balances the narrative perfectly.
One of the main attractions of Lardo, besides the man himself, is the fact that the majority of the stage is taken up by a wrestling ring in all its glory. The cast navigate and bounce off of the ropes adding dimension after dimension to the performance. It also means that during the wrestling scenes we turn from audience to spectator, the actors have us in the palm of their hands, keeping our energy high and our emotions on side. Lardo left me giddy all the way home, beaming as my heart felt like it was about to buzz out of my chest.
Lardo is playing at Old Red Lion Theatre until 29 March. For more information and tickets, see the Old Red Lion Theatre website.