Lockdown changed a lot of things for a lot of people. It was, for many of us, an incredibly dark and fearful time; stepping into the unknown, existing in a world that had suddenly shrunk almost beyond recognition. But for some, it was a time of self reflection and discovery. For many in the LGBTQIA+ community – or indeed, those who were beginning to realise they are a part of that community – lockdown became a time to delve into our identities in a safe and private space. Self expression, gender identity and gender performance have become hot topics over the course of the past few years. While some grew in the acceptance of their identities over lockdown, others became fixated on policing the identities of others. Returning to a near ‘normal’ world post-lockdown has brought a lot of this turmoil – both inner and external – to a head, and Greedy Pig Theatre Company’s new play, Peacock, explores many of these topics with nuance and unbridled joy.

Written by Douglas Murdoch and directed by Lex Kaby, Peacock follows three friends, Seamus (Ben Armitage), Tyrell (Kofi Dennis) and Violet (Alexandra Wollacott) as they navigate small town life in their mid-twenties. As the three central characters work hard to keep a crystals-come-psychic-readings shop afloat, Seamus struggles with the implications and societal expectations of what it is to be a bisexual cis-man who wants to express themselves through make-up. This is a play of many facets, delving into the lives of the ensemble cast to reveal each of their emotional journeys through the course of the play. Tyrell’s blossoming drag act and rift with his beloved older brother; Violet’s mission to be heard and recognised by local gatekeepers; and the fourth member of their growing friendship group, Noah (Toby Mitchell), as he attempts to come to terms with the emotional realities of being a straight, cis-man in the 21st Century; all of these journeys are given the space to grow and develop in a way that is so often missed in traditional narratives.

Peacock is above all things a celebration. Though the painful realities of being queer in modern Britain are not glossed over, this is not a tragic narrative. It is a play about acceptance, love and living your truth. The cast are a joy to watch, and their chemistry as an ensemble is palpable. Murdoch’s writing is lifted from the page with such dynamic ease that the play almost doesn’t feel scripted at all. With perhaps one of the most startlingly honest depictions of bisexual identity I have seen onstage, this is a piece of queer theatre that demands to be seen. While queer representation has vastly increased and improved over the past decade, there is still so much to be explored and Peacock is a prime example of LGBTQIA+ narratives being told with clear cut honesty by queer creatives. I sincerely hope this won’t be the last we see of this glorious show!

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Gender identity and sex have become increasingly hot topics over the last few years. As trans experiences have become more openly discussed and representation of trans narratives in the media have become more mainstream, so too has the transphobic push back. Anyone who has any kind of relationship with the online world will no doubt be aware of the so called “debates” that have gone on on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and these discussions have more recently begun to spill over into mainstream media. I will say this now and with utter conviction that debating someone’s existence isn’t a debate, it’s an attack. Understanding trans and non-binary experiences from a cis (someone who identifies as the sex they were assigned at birth) perspective can be difficult; it challenges many of the fundamentals of our gender-based society in ways that can be deeply unsettling, but that isn’t a bad thing. Society, with all its great injustices, hatred and bigotries, is far, far from perfect; to believe it is comes from a place of privileged ignorance. But despite how uncomfortable it may make you feel to have what you thought to be hardline truth questioned, questioning someone’s right to exist is inhumane. There is a difference, in my view, between a debate and a discussion. A debate traditionally follows a binary model that one side is right and the other is wrong – it is about proving your side whilst discrediting the other. A discussion comes from a far more open place – a place of listening and a willingness to learn. In watching Greedy Pig Theatre’s new production, Be, we as an audience were entering a place of discussion and reflection, and it was this atmosphere of compassionate openness that brought a real power to this piece.

Written by Gabrielle Finnegan and directed by Lex Kaby, Be is a spoken word play, running at just under an hour and a half, which follows the experiences of three individuals: Person 1 (played by Finn Harkin), a trans-man; Person 2 (played by Matthew Kay), a cis-man; and Person 3, a cis-woman (played by Alicia Pollard). Set in a mercurial storage space, littered with boxes labelled for jumble sales, charity shops and car boot sales, the characters sort through the detritus of human life and recount their lives in seven chapters, from childhood through to early adulthood. Accompanied live on stage by actor-musician, Harry Miller, the characters reveal how gender, sex and how society interacts with these identities have impacted their lives. 

Be is a beautifully crafted piece of theatre, handling a complicated and polarising topic in an emotionally intelligent and respectful way. The pain, anguish, joy and celebration of gender identity and sex are explored with such dynamism and care by Gabrielle Finnegan’s writing, and given their true depth and credence by the talented ensemble cast. Lex Kaby’s choice to dress her performers in identical, loose fitting long tunics is a clever dramaturgical choice to visually create a neutral space for gender to be discussed and explored. Indeed, the earthy, flesh-toned colour palette used throughout the set and costume brings a gentle, almost womb-like element to the stage, as though this is the ultimate safe space for the inevitable vulnerability of the play’s subject to be given the space to breathe. Finn Harkin, Matthew Kay and Alicia Pollard give beautiful, nuanced performances, switching from verse to prose with assured ease. While certain scene transitions felt a little stilted, the emotional and political power of Be was not lost. This is a must see piece of theatre in these painfully turbulent times. 

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The Last Thing He Saw Was A Ferret

There’s something about the nature of web series that is both enigmatically exciting and challenging. In the world of online streaming platform giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+, web series as an art-form could have easily become obsolete. Micro formats like TikTok have become incredibly popular as a form of entertainment for online users, particularly amongst younger generations, so the short to medium forms of YouTube web series and vlogs could have begun to lose their relevance. Could, being the key word, because in many respects, the indie creations that have appeared on YouTube and Vimeo have in many ways been some of the most formally interesting and ingenious narratives to have been produced in recent years. These self-publishing platforms have allowed artists to experiment with their craft in ways that many before them would not have been able to whilst concurrently growing an audience for their work. Web series can play with narrative and cinematic style in ways that studio and contract bound productions cannot and this is what makes them so exciting to watch; there’s a risk to them that you don’t really get with a lot of television or film. Could this be a revolutionary piece of art, or a clumsily hashed piece of dross? With the internet, it can be a bit of a pot luck, but with Greedy Pig Theatre Company’s latest project, The Last Thing He Saw Was A Ferret, we are offered a true treat of online drama.

Co-written by Gabrielle Finnegan and Douglas Murdoch, The Last Thing He Saw Was A Ferret, is a five part thriller where the events of a disastrous student flat party are gradually revealed. Student friends Eli (Russell Eccleston), Lulu (Inez Solomon), Hettie (Kyiah Ashton) and London (Nell Bailey) recount what happened in the lead up to their flatmate Angelo’s (Michael Difford) fall from their flat window, involving a rather disgruntled ferret of all things. Each episode focuses on a single character’s testimony of the party’s events, and as the characters reveal more about their relationships with one another through these intimate monologues, the dark, tangled web of what – or who – caused Angelo’s potentially fatal fall is revealed in all its sinister glory.

I love a good mystery – it’s probably why my favourite genres are horror and thrillers, and in some ways, The Last Thing He Saw Was A Ferret falls into both genres. The tension of each episode, cultivated by Lex Kaby and Alicia Pollard’s direction, Alex Latham’s lighting and Finn MacNeil’s sound design and composition, is perfectly balanced with the vulnerable performances of the ensemble cast. The choice to have the characters’ monologues framed by whether their testimony veers towards honesty or dishonesty is a brilliant conceit that ramps up the tension and suspicion about each of the characters, and with all five episodes running at roughly ten minutes, the unfurling mystery truly becomes addictive watching. In the fifth episode’s final moments, as the truth and context of what happened is revealed through ingenious cuts between the different character’s accounts – edited to perfection by writer Douglas Murdoch – the brilliance of this series’ writing reveals its masterstroke. This is a brilliantly executed thriller that utilises its minimalist cinematic design in order to create a tense, intriguing plot that neatly ties up its many threads in a cleverly satisfying ending.

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The Fish Cage

Identity is something of an enigma. It is both mercurial and solid, changing and eternal. It is shaped by the factors that influence our environments, by the events that happen in our lives and the communities we grow up in. Identity is both shaped by and in spite of the culture and history that surrounds us, and yet, parts of our identity are utterly innate and predetermined. With recent and ongoing cases such as the murder of Sarah Everard and the Plymouth shooting bringing the insidious influence of toxic masculinity into the spotlight, there are questions to be asked about what it means to be a man in the 21st Century. How has the performance of masculinity been shaped through our cultural history, and how sustainable are these traditionally gendered ideals in a world that demands equality across gender, race and sexuality? It is this questioning of identity that forms the crux of the intense drama within Greedy Pig Theatre Company’s new full length play, The Fish Cage.

Written by Douglas Murdoch and directed by Lex Kaby, The Fish Cage places itself in a Black Mirror-esque world where criminal surveillance technology has reached new heights with the invention of heat map tracking software, Recognition. But of course, with every new technological breakthrough comes the counter-tech, and in this Orwellian setting, the best way for a criminal to hide from the authorities is in the consciousness of another person. This is where we meet introverted nerd, Connor (played by Patrick James Withey), the play’s protagonist – or rather, joint protagonist – because it is Connor, or rather Connor’s body, that must play host to the consciousness of the bombastic criminal, Fish. As Connor, his older brother Ryan (Njeko Katebe) and Ryan’s girlfriend Ruby (Lorna Durham) are thrown into this madcap world of mind-transference and shadowy organisations, things only get darker as Fish makes a shocking discovery about the young man whose body he is now trapped within.

The Fish Cage is a real masterclass in writing within the genre of the thriller. With all its twists and turns and spine-tinglingly satisfying reveals, Murdoch’s writing sores to brilliant heights with the precise and measured performances of the cast. Patrick James Withey shines in the Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde role of Connor and Fish, with Kaby’s tight direction beautifully bringing out the light and shade within Withey’s extended monologue-come-duologues; the switches in physicality and vocal energy between Withey’s two characters are utterly seamless. Njeko Katebe exudes fraternal warmth as the protective older brother Ryan, whose misplaced sympathy is all the more painful and frustrating as Lorna Durham’s Ruby counters and questions her boyfriend’s trust in his brother. As Tiffany Rhodes enters the scene in the play’s second act as Alice, she brings with her a sumptuous reinvigoration of energy and intrigue, and Rhodes’ performance is magnificent in its layers of rage, pain and dark humour. As is characteristic of any Greedy Pig production, the set for The Fish Cage is wonderfully detailed and naturalistic, allowing for Cara Hood’s lighting design in the opening scene to function as its own cast of characters; indeed, the show’s opening is utterly brilliant in translating expositional dialogue into a visually compelling piece of theatre. This is a finely executed show that hits all the beats of a crime thriller in all the right places, and examines the pressing topics of toxic masculinity and male violence towards women with the allegorical flare of a truly great piece of science-fiction.

Star Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2


Theatre is the space of the taboo. Whether it’s one of Ibsen’s domestic dramas, an in-yer-face play or even a Wildean farce, theatre has been the church of the unspoken and the unseen. Its inherently political nature – for all stories hold their own implicit politics – means that often it is a space to give voice to the topics we tend to steer clear of in polite conversation. Difficult topics are given air, whether through metaphor or humour or bluntly forthright discussion, and it is this quality that makes me excited for this art form – a quality which Conny Hancock and Greedy Pig Theatre Company’s R&D co-production Nhair plays with in beautiful fashion.

This autobiographical solo performance follows Conny in her quest towards a beautiful green garden and bodily autonomy. Diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, Conny struggles with issues of self image and the pressures of societal expectations of beauty as her symptoms present, among other things, as excessive hair growth, and it is this symptom more than any other that forms the central conflict of the piece. Through intercut scenes in doctor’s surgeries, pokey rented property gardens, and bustling pub poetry nights, we witness Conny’s journey towards self realisation and acceptance of her physical identity.

Nhair is a joy to watch, with its charmingly realised garden set – complete with bunting and technicolour synthetic plants – and Hancock’s natural and honest performance. Hancock’s background as a poet is utilised with clever skill as the imagery of her barren, overworked garden is interwoven with her own struggles with her body image, and coupled with her irreverent humour, this is an entertaining and thoughtfully challenging piece. While there is still room for fine tuning with regards to plot – certain threads such as Conny’s relationship with George deserve to be teased out more – this is an accomplished R&D performance that holds promise as powerful piece of theatre.

Star rating:


Close Your Eyes, I’m Filming

The cold weather and the dark nights are truly creeping in as autumn affirms itself around us. Pumpkin spice lattes are back on the coffee shop menus while the leaves on the trees transform into fiery hues. But now is the season for more diabolical things than fall colours and cinnamon flavours – now is the spooky season for horror films and ghost stories as Halloween heralds its coming in the next fortnight.

Not that we need many more frights and scares after this stinker of a year, but I will readily admit that I am one of those odd people who finds comfort in the horror genre. There is something to be said about the adrenaline rush one feels when a ghoulish creature reeks havoc on some poor unsuspecting friendship group or a vengeful spirit upsets the family equilibrium; it’s as if a release of one’s own anxieties takes place. I always love finding an excuse to binge watch a few classic horror thrillers and engaging with new editions to the genre is always a tantalising prospect.

Close Your Eyes, I’m Filming is the horror film of our times. As all of us have spent many long months in isolation, with many artists having to adapt to the new normal of digitally produced, remotely accessed content, the world of this film is starkly relevant to this new age of socially distanced performance. Directed by Lex Kaby, written by Douglas Murdoch and devised by Greedy Pig Theatre Company, Sam Cattee and Matt Rawlings, this half way between short and feature film delves into the darker side of our digital world and the infernal influence of influencer culture.

We are thrown into the madcap life of Daisy the vlogger (played by Sam Cattee), a rising star of the YouTube scene whose hunger to make it to the number one trending spot knows no bounds. With the help of her rather long suffering boyfriend, Nathan (played by Matt Rawlings), Daisy engages in viral trends old and new in her bid to gain more subscribers, but things take an unexpected turn when objects in the young couple’s home begin to mysteriously move around the house.

This is a masterfully realised horror flick with some brilliantly nuanced performances from the film’s two leads. With the found-footage narrative framing, a lot of responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the actors to portray these characters with highly focused naturalism and both Cattee and Rawlings pull this off with complete ease. Cattee portrays Daisy’s descent into tyrannical divadom with frightening realism, tracing the stark changes in her on and off camera personalities with precision. Indeed, the construction of this film’s narrative, while not ground breaking within the horror genre, is nonetheless skilfully orchestrated. You can tell that this is a film made by horror/thriller fans and the twists that unfold are cleverly handled.

Fans of the Paranormal Activity franchise will enjoy the self aware call backs to that recent horror classic, but even more so the ways in which this narrative flips the tropes of those found-footage films on their head. Indeed, the true horror of Close Your Eyes, I’m Filming cannot be chalked up to any demonic haunting but rather to something far more frighteningly real, which only serves to make the film that much more chilling.

So as All Hallow’s Eve draws closer and the things that go bump in the night grow more restless, why not treat yourself to this spooky little film? It certainly is more treat than trick.

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