Apocalypse, Comedy, Edinburgh Fringe, Gabe Day, George Ferguson, Michael Roderick, Nick Fanthorpe, Nightclub, Rory Platt, Sara Ahmed, Satire, Surgeon's Hall, Theatre Review, Trinity Fringe Productions
[The following contains spoilers.]
After a long, hard day at the theatre, you may need a couple of extra vodka espressos to get you through the late night performance of Rory Platt’s “Gabe Day,” but it is well worth the sacrifice. You can sleep in tomorrow – only dull theatre is brilliant at breakfast.
“Gabe Day” is playing at the Surgeons’ Hall. At first, it has the feel of a laddish BBC sitcom, and Platt appears to have executed no great imaginative leaps in order to procure the characters and themes. George Ferguson plays the nightclub owner Charlie as a wretched, ranting English twit, often looking like a bald impersonation of David Mitchell. When wrangling with his sidekick Kate (Sara Ahmed), he lapses into the image of Basil Fawlty scolding his sarcastic waitress Polly. Their indie nightclub is going bankrupt on the same night that a famous TV evangelist has announced that the world will end. You’re unlikely to get much original satire out of mocking hipsters and doomsters. In fact, you’re merely tossing another shovel of ridicule on to these established satirical mountains.
But somehow this play works very well. The calamitous DJ Cooper (Michael Roderick) brings the wrong briefcase to the nightclub, extracting a copy of the Financial Times rather than his decks. Charlie snaps that he should read the FTSE out to the dance floor. Charlie is elsewhere priceless when outlining his theory that corporate nightclubs are “battery farms” for fucking; whilst this play becomes exquisitely savage after deciding to randomly mock modern art and Jewish conspiracy theories.
It becomes immediately apparent that “Gabe Day” is reliable; that something funny or clever will be uttered at every second moment. And it will be – this play never releases us from its teeth. Unlike other comedies which Tychy has reviewed at this year’s Fringe [see “Way Back” and “Very Still and Hard to See”], “Gabe Day” is premised upon an acceptance that the best comedy is the purest. There will be no darkness or tragedy added unnecessarily to this play like espresso to a vodka. It is simply good fun.
“Gabe Day” compensates for the unadventurousness of its satire with some keen observational writing. The atmosphere of a dying bar is captured with great clarity (a sore point for Tychy since I have worked in a bar similar to this one), although last night’s audience of half a dozen may have felt ironically included in the abandoned atmosphere. The characterisation is predictable: it will not come as a surprise that Charlie and Kate go to bed together, or that the clownish Cooper will carry the entire play on his shoulders once his drugs inevitably kick in. With his mumbling and permanent blush, Nick Fanthorpe gives the impression of being a nervous student actor, but he will soon fit perfectly into the centre of this play.
If these actors manage to replicate the atmosphere of an enjoyable sitcom, this is fundamental to the success of “Gabe Day.” We must feel like we are amongst cosy friends, or that we are watching innocent and decent people enduring a series of amusing annoyances. The dialogue about some incoming rugby players may seem like a stray strand of storyline, but it allows us a window to believe that there will be a happy ending. It is not the end of the world as we know it, but this play still feels fine.