Flies

Tue 4th – Sat 22nd October 2011

reviews

Elliot Marcus

at 22:32 on 19th Oct 2011

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Walking into the theatre, I should have known from the music being played what to expect from the show I was about to see. Better suited to a poorly produced adult film from the 1960s, the tone of the production lifted little as the hour and a half of quite bewildering dark comedy continued.

'Flies' follows the story of Dennis, a nervous and reserved character, quite terribly afflicted by a crippling fear of flies. As the well written, and at times, poignant, script goes on, he gradually falls deeper and deeper into paranoia and fear. This progression is strengthened by some solid acting from the three-man cast, who play a diverse gang of caricatures. Aided by an extremely proficient use of lighting, sound and props, the play bounces along at a steady pace, never pausing long enough for any of the stranger characters to grate, yet allowing the main characters enough time to grow and develop a relationship with the audience. Perhaps at times the bouncy nature of the script can be self-defeating, as occasionally viewers are left puzzled, and somewhat excluded from the action on stage, which moves from the Antarctica to Leicester; from obnoxious travel agents, to talking polar bears.

But the play is exciting and swift, and the actors move with great speed and energy, moving through a reasonable array of characters, and consistently moving the audience to laughter. Whilst occasionally the balance between poignancy and comedy may be off, in general the mood of the play is irreverent and excitable: a strange adventure through the inner machinations of a pteronarcophobe.

If you're looking for theatre which can astound you with its depth and meaning, you're probably looking in the wrong place, but whilst at times 'Flies' may lose grasp of its own plot, and become slightly crazed, it is a greatly enjoyable night out, saved by some excellent acting and inventive staging.

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Oliver Arnoldi

at 10:00 on 20th Oct 2011

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"I took a shit on your food...and then I vomited...and it was all because I don't like you." Perhaps this is not one of the most eloquent lines from Oliver Lansley's (writer of BBC 2 series 'Whites') morbidly comic meditation on a man's phobia of flies, but then again, 'Flies' is not a piece of theatre comparable to the 'Sound of Music'.

From a pre-show soundtrack reminiscent of effeminate German electro, to the sight of a toy donkey being rammed down a human throat, Lansley's work treats the audience as a sponge for absurdist ideas. This is echoed by the opening scene: a penguin, polar bear and a bespectacled man dancing to a vaguely tuneful "Antarctica", an original song that, I ashamedly admit, left me feeling rather fearful of the following ninety minutes. However, what originally felt like a twisted hybrid of Pingu and the Teletubbies turned into an enduringly terse and witty reflection on the hilarity and confusion of phobia.

To precis the work would be doing a disservice to how it should be received. However, whilst the eponymous theme pervades the play, 'Flies' is about far more than the "irrational fear" of an insect. It is about the projection of the workings of one man's mind, played out in Beckett-esque style by the superb three man cast. In a way, this play could have turned into a parody of itself, frenetically switching from an airplane scene, to the nightmarish confines of a dentist chair, to a banal psychiatric office, but the way in which it is directed, by an assured Emma Earle, saves for a gripping narrative that should be savoured and shared by audiences around the country.

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