Arcola’s Studio 2, tucked away around the back of the East London venue, is an ideal
space for this claustrophobic comic tragedy that explores a young man’s battle
with his self image, self confidence and a nervous foray into the gay scene in
It is a remarkable piece of writing, wry, witty and surreal;
the debut play of Hull-based playwright Tom Wells, who, two years after attending the West Yorkshire
Playhouse’s 'So You Want to be a Writer?’ course, and a year on attachment with
Paine’s Plough, has created this powerfully poignant piece of theatre.
The play is set in the young man’s heavily pregnant sister’s
sitting room in Hull, which is dominated by a large sofa that is the pride and
joy of her partner Mark. Stitch, the young man in question, has decided to hit
the gay scene , or rather "dip his toe in", with Mark’s friend Dave, who works
at the local aquarium. On a trip there with his young nephew however, he ends
up with more than he bargained for.
The couple return home to find Stitch flatly refusing to let
anyone into the loo, even pregnant Liz, who is dying for a pee. The reason? He has
stolen a baby penguin and hidden it in the shower! Why? “It was like looking in a mirror – there it was, it was
smaller than the others, a bit scruffy looking, a bit – dim. Like, just being
there was taking a lot of effort.” As the title of the play says, Me, As a Penguin.
remarkable performance as Stitch is heart-wrenching, engaging and entertaining;
a shy tortured soul striving for recognition and acceptance in a world that is
shallow and sordid. His encounter with Daniel Abelson’s deftly defined slob Dave turns out to an embarrassing
mistake. Samantha Power lives
up to her name as the strong, fiery, yet caring older sister whose ultimatum of
getting a new sofa before the baby arrives causes friction with her partner
Mark, played with control and conviction by John Catterall.
Director Chris Hill
has created a taut piece of theatre that allows each of the characters to
flourish in their own space and time, and the play is well paced and holds our
attention to the end. This closely observed, brilliantly acted and directed piece
deserves a wider audience; Tom Wells is a name to watch.