Rob Hayes wasn’t hiding anything when he titled his 2014 Edinburgh Fringe play ‘Awkward Conversations with Animals I’ve F*cked’. It is exactly what it says on the tin. If the aim of Hayes title was purely to shock and catch the eye it succeeds - the script distressing us into awkward laughter.
The plot follows Bobby, admirably played by Linus Karp, and his rather awkward ‘morning after’ conversations with animals he’s courted the night before. Under clear and strong direction from Katherine Armitage, Karp plays Bobby as an awkwardly jittery bundle of energy, almost childlike in his approach. Although Bobby performs abhorrent acts on animals, I found myself forgetting the animal altogether, as the words said could be relevant to any romantic encounter and because of this, as an audience, we can’t help but like and sympathise with Bobby’s feeling of not fitting in; something we have all felt at least once in our lives.
As the awkward conversations with the animals (which include a ‘below average’ escort chimp) develop, we begin to see fragility, loneliness and mental health in its toxic prime. Bobby's naivety in acknowledging that there is anything wrong in the acts he performs is fascinating and Karp gets to the grit of Bobby’s issues. Just as the audience gets used to Bobby, his awkward mood shifts as he takes one of his partners down memory lane and suppressed memories of his father begin to rise to the surface. Less frantic and energetic we see a more exposed and scared man, gently transitioned by Karp. I feel this is one of the only moments where the writing falls short, I want to know more about Bobby’s relationship with his absent father and in that, give Karp the vehicle to connect with us on a deeper emotional level.
Overall Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve F*cked is a bizarre, poignant, quietly clever play, that also succeeds in being ludicrously funny. Once you get past the in your face title, Hayes rampant exploration of loneliness, mental health and bestiality will have you moved whilst wetting yourself with laughter, albeit awkwardly.
Awkward Conversations With Animals I've F*cked runs at The Kings Head Theatre until the 27th of April.