Review: Fat Pig (again)

Better, the second time around?

Okay, I’ve already reviewed this. I know. But my wife wanted to see it, and she was gutted when we couldn’t use the free tickets Fat Pig‘s PR guy offered us – two hours before the performance was due to start, mind – so I thought I’d treat her to dinner and the theatre yesterday. Cos I’m nice.

The thing about both movies and TV shows, though, is that they’re always the same. Once recorded, they’re immutable. But theatre changes every night. The actors can improve or vary their performance, be tired one night and turn in a dodgy performance, get bored, or ad lib, for example. Mistakes can be fixed – or new ones can turn up.

So two weeks on, is Fat Pig better or worse?

It’s better. A lot of my comments – both positive and negative – still hold. But the performances have definitely improved.

For starters, the accents are universally better across the board, with Robert Webb’s showing the most signs of new life. There are still a couple of blips here and there, but for the most part, the accents hold up through both acts and are pretty good now.

Talking of Webb, he’s changed things quite a bit. Now whether he’s mixing it up a bit or he’s been taking notes from his reviews*, I can’t say. But my major criticism of his interpretation – that he was playing Tom too cowardly – has had to be chucked out the window.

Webb’s definitely upped the warmth as well as the bolshiness and grit in his performance to the extent that Tom doesn’t seem such a bad character any more. A little cowardly, by the character’s own admission, but by no means the craven waste of space of the first performance. He’s definitely more of an everyman that you can sympathise with, even if he does do some quite nasty things. And there’s a new line (unless I missed it the first time, but I don’t think I would have) that appears to have been added that takes note of my comment about Rob Webb not being quite the Adonis the lines makes him out to be.

Kris Marshall, who I thought was a little too likeable in his earlier portrayal, has gone for something edgier – as I’d hoped for as well. Carter is now more malicious, less playful. He’s very dislikable now (in a good way).

Page, interestingly, has both upped the bitch content and made Jeannie even more of an everywoman. She’s now quite scary at times and her second-act tirade against Webb elicited a round of applause from the audience. But Jeannie’s now even more obviously heartbroken by Tom’s actions and it’s impossible not to feel sorry for her.

Indeed, my rom-com addled brain, fooled by the wistful looks that Webb occasionally shoots Page’s way later on in the play and Jeannie’s admission she’d take Tom back despite everything, thinks that maybe Fat Pig is really just the middle third of the overall play: Tom and Jeannie get together, break up (interminably), have the Fat Pig blip that makes Tom realise his true feelings, and they get together for a happy ending a couple of acts further down the line. Which is just rubbish, I know, but that’s me.

Ella Smith is as excellent as she was the first time, so there’s not much I can add to what I said last time. But even she has added a bit more spunk to her performance, so my criticism that Helen seemed too nice and unwilling to fight has to be chucked out, too.

All in all, then, probably a 4/5 now. Far better as a polemic thanks to the edgier performances, and still as funny and as good a tragic rom-com as it was before. Enjoyable, even if you have seen a previous performance…

Note: Although I’d like to say that for intellectual rigour, I will in future be going to two performances of every play I review, I’m not sure that’s going to happen. The West End isn’t exactly cheap, for one thing. So my suspicion is that unless the play stars God, the baby Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed – and they all happen to be appearing in popular TV comedy shows at the time – this is going to be a one-off. Oh well.

* He has, noticeably, been going around to various blogs and newspaper sites leaving comments in the wee small hours of the morning, so he’s definitely reading them. I’ll tell you something for nothing, he really didn’t like the Daily Mail‘s scummy review. I like him even more now.