Last night I managed to catch the final Fringe performance of “Stiff Dicky” at the Space Triplex. “Stiff Dicky” is the second show after “Mine” (which I reviewed yesterday) to be written by Georgia Taylforth and brought to Edinburgh by London’s Junkbox Theatre.
They are still doing this thing where a condom is waiting on every seat. What is the correct etiquette for dealing with this? I feel that greedily stuffing condoms into my man-bag would create the wrong impression, but, on the other hand, leaving them untouched makes me look frigid and sad. I put my condom temporarily on the next seat but then a girl is suddenly sitting down beside me. She blinks at me matter-of-factly and inquires, “would you like your condom?”
I flash my most boyish grin. “Oh, it’s okay, I never wear them.”
She turns away. I must have said it so dryly that it didn’t sound like a joke. Christ, what have I just done?
The eponymous Richard (Lejaun Sheppard) is really the least of the characters in “Stiff Dicky,” though Sheppard chips in a good initial performance as a nightclub slimeball. Dicky is soon stiff firstly in the sense that he is dead. Bella (Alexandra Mardell) wakes up after a drunken night out to find him lying beside her, killed by a Viagra overdose. He is secondly stiff in the Viagra sense. I presume that the actor must be wearing some kind of prosthetic… appendage, unless he has the most incredible stamina. He is visibly erect for half the play and even during the applause.
Characteristic of a farce, “Stiff Dicky” at times shows an open unconcern with realism. The ending is, in particular, firmly farcical. The scenes around the bed with the dead man spin weightlessly high above the audience, as buoyant and dizzy as the classic antics with the corpse in Fawlty Towers. The cast have been shuffled about a little from “Mine,” with Sheppard in and Jack Coleby, now directing, out. The actors are not isolated within different narratives as they are in “Mine,” and this allows the play to liberate an enjoyable camaraderie between them all. Their characters are familiar from sitcomland – the bimbo, the fusspot, the stuck-up girlfriend – and yet the writing and acting gives them an extra, interesting lifelikeness.
At the same time, “Stiff Dicky” is gently heavier than a farce. The references to the death of Alice’s (Taylforth) and Connor’s (Sebastian Blunt) mother seem to promise a solid third dimension to the story. This is in fact a red herring. “Stiff Dicky” concludes with the moral or the anti-moral that girls are allowed to fuck about and that things will be altogether easier if they do.
Let us leave aside any suspicion that Alice’s romantic, uncomplicated one night stand with a perfect Frenchman (Hippolyte Poirie) is, to put it mildly, idealistic. There is an everyday cheerfulness to this play’s moral that removes the usual and sometimes irritating pointedness from its feminist reclaiming of the word “slut.” I had earlier called Alice a “bimbo” – and I like the idea of the play’s writer playing the stupidest character – but Alice is actually warm and bubbly. Just like with Lauren (Mardell) in the first play, “Stiff Dicky” has an unequivocally good character at its centre. It is a humorous story, however, because this character is responsible for a horrific injustice and she is so nice that we let her off. Although Mardell displays the same powerful comic chops as in “Mine,” this time Taylforth is the angel at the top of the Christmas tree.