Ah, the stag weekend! One of the last bastions of manliness, where men are free to return to their Alpha roots and are positively encouraged to over indulge their masculine instincts through the mediums of beer, fights, strip clubs and novelty Viking helmets. However stag weekends, like members of the male species, are not all the same and Fuel’s latest production, The Summer House, introduces us to the more Beta end of the stag spectrum.
On a set as sparse as the Icelandic landscape in which the play is set, we are introduced to Stag Will (Will Adamsdale), Best Man Matthew (Matthew Steer) and Neil (Neil Haigh) on their way to Neil’s remote summer house in the mountains near Reykjavik in the dead of night. They are ready to stir up some stag chaos (after a cup of herbal tea) and ensure Will gets the (well-organised and efficient) send-off he deserves. Unfortunately, no amount of laminated schedules can prepare them for what awaits them at the Summer House and the foundations of their friendships (and of the house itself) soon start to fall apart…
In the background to this descent into chaos, we also get to meet the hung-over Yom Vikings embarking on a doomed invasion of Norway and three Norse Gods whose petulance and vulnerability belie their powers and hero statuses.
The Summer House is a thoroughly enjoyable production that keeps the laughs coming throughout with pithy dialogue and visual gags aplenty. The performances are pitch perfect, effortlessly switching from the laddish-but-loyal Vikings of the past to the new breed of male that won’t let go of the music of Bob Dylan, enjoys a good mime wrestling match and gets changed into swimming trunks under towels to avoid the awkwardness of nudity. The cast and director John Wright must be congratulated for their ingenious application of everyday items that turn the sparse set into a playground of havoc where earthquakes destroy, giants wander, Norse Gods fly and, of course, hot tubs steam and bubble.
The piece, devised by the actors and director, cleverly juxtaposes men from the past with their unflinching but naïve loyalty to each other and the tribe, with men of today who try so hard to fit into the Alpha mould but, through insecurities and hang-ups, lose their way. Perhaps we all need a helping hand from the Norse Gods to remind us that honour and promises will always trump promotions and pettiness.