On Thursday night, the Alec Clegg Theatre was home to the first ever performance of Hugo Jones and Josh Kirby’s new writing, ‘Ink Boy’ – a surrealist dark comedy about Gordon, a hapless and uninspired employee who is mistakenly granted seven wishes by a mysterious fairy godmother.
Played by Kieran Bose Rosling, the character of Gordon originally seemed a bit like Peep Show’s Mark Corrigan; uncool, bad with women, a bit friendless, and a poor taste in shirts. Yet when he’s presented with a fairy godmother (Alabama Boatman), instead of wishing to better his life, his conscience takes a dark turn and he decides to take revenge on those who he believes has a better life than him.
Jones and Kirby’s writing achieved the impressive feat of straddling the boundaries of both comedy and drama, and although we could laugh at the laddy banter of Tom Currey’s ‘Olivar,’ and Dean Hull’s ‘Hilary,’ we were also drawn into the selfish and dark undercurrent of society’s neglected, exploring what happens to the psyche of those who are isolated and rejected.
Gordon’s mental descent is projected through many interesting directorial decisions; the mind-numbing TV shows that Gordon wastes his life away watching are mirrored in the interspersions of sitcom-style laughter, gave rise to the play’s “surrealist” designation and the character’s own mental disintegration. The strong ensemble cast rallied around Gordon’s character, with Mollie Kerrigan’s portrayal of Gordon’s unenthusiastic girlfriend Sally in particular being extremely strong.
One of the funniest moments of the play came from Sam Miller playing the boss of Venus, the fairy godmother; to the delight of the audience, his false moustache kept peeling off – and eventually came of altogether – and, deliberate or not, resulted in applause from an audience in stitches. Clearly an extremely talented improvisational actor, Miller provided a standout performance despite occupying a small role.
Although the play at times lacked cohesion in terms of plot development, perhaps this is down to its genre as a surrealist comedy, with Gordon being an inexplicable character whom the audience is invited to question and not understand. Directors and writers Jones and Kirby ultimately succeeded in this new production, which truly delved into the issue of uncovering what people are truly capable of.