Fat Pig | Queensland Theatre CompanyLeft & Cover - Amy Ingram and Christopher Sommers. Photos - Rob Maccoll

How important an element is looking good in the architecture of happiness? This is the subject addressed in the Queensland Theatre Company’s production of Neil LaBute’s sweet and sour tale, Fat Pig.

First performed in 2004, Fat Pig is your basic boy meets girl story. Except that the girl, Helen, happens to be slightly overweight, and the boy, Tom, isn’t sure he’s brave enough to love Helen as she is. Add to this a toxic bachelor, Carter, and Tom’s psychotic ex-girlfriend, Jeannie, and the scene is set for a classic LaBute tale. Though not as utterly depressing as some of his other works, Fat Pig is never less than in-your-face confronting.

Amy Ingram, making her Queensland Theatre Company debut, shines as Helen, the object of Tom’s love, and Carter and Jeannie’s malice. Ingram’s Helen is bold, unpretentious, and centered, the perfect foil to Tom (Christopher Sommers).

Unlike Helen, Tom has not made peace with who he is, has not yet accepted his own limitations. Sommers captures Tom’s very human uncertainties and weaknesses perfectly. There is a “Tom” in all of us and despite everything he puts Helen through, Sommers adroitly negotiates LaBute’s biting text, managing to communicate Tom’s dilemma with great sympathy.

Ingram and Sommers have a fantastic on-stage chemistry. Their mutual attraction is totally believable, making the ending even more heart wrenching.

As Jeannie, Tom’s sexy on-off office girlfriend, Paige Gardiner brings a furious, caustic energy. Spurned by the object of her affection in favour of overweight Helen, she heads a relentless campaign to destabilize the lovers.

Jeannie walks a very fine line between a woman scorned and certifiable stalker. In the real world Jeannie’s completely over-the-top antics would no doubt see her get slapped with a harassment suit. Gardiner’s performance isn’t subtle, but to be fair Fat Pig is hardly the most subtle of plays.

The highlight of the production for me was Steve Rooke as Tom’s shallow, narcissistic colleague Carter. Anyone familiar with LaBute’s screen or stage work will know what to expect from Carter. Like Chad from the 1997 film In The Company of Men, Carter is a charming, high-functioning psychopath with a paperweight where his heart should be. Rooke plays it for laughs and for me that approach made Carter’s cruel bombast all the more confronting as I found myself stifling embarrassed laughter.

Director Morgan Dowsett does a fantastic job with his young cast and production crew. He neglects neither the comic nor tragic elements of the material and keeps the pace fast, a relief given the bleak subject matter.

The production design by Renee Mulder is simple and evocative, allowing the action to move seamlessly between settings. I loved Tony Brumpton’s cheeky music choices and Ben Hughes’s moody lighting.

Fat Pig is a play that will stay with you and will leave you with more questions than answers. Go see it – it’s not one to miss.

Queensland Theatre Company presents
Fat Pig
by Neil LaBute

Director Morgan Dowsett

Venue: Bille Brown Studio | 78 Montague Rd South Brisbane
Dates: Monday 31 May – Saturday 26 June 2010
Tickets: $36-$56 Under 30: $30
Bookings: QTIX 136 246 | www.qldtheatreco.com.au

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