After a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Awkward Conversations with Animals I’ve F*cked brings its unconventional humour and (slightly disturbing) wit to Manchester. Performed at The King’s Arms in Salford, this small venue lent an intimacy to the performance that highlighted its uncomfortable subject matter.
Written by Rob Hayes, Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve F*cked tells the story of Bobby, a young adult male with a complicated relationship with his father and passionate love for animals. Linus Karp stars in this one-man show, which is as hilarious as it is deeply troubling.
Humour is weaved into the performance as Bobby talks to the imagined animals onstage; a dog, a cat, a horse, a monkey, and finally (and most chillingly) a bear. Each conversation is implied to have taken place after a sexual encounter with the animal in question. This is something that initially shocked the audience and prompted nervous laughter before the conversations turned more sinister.
Within these conversations, Bobby monologues on life, love, relationships, careers, and the existential questions of what makes us human. The underlying theme of animal rights and autonomy also works its way through much of the narrative. Bobby questions why we can kill, maim, cook, and eat animals without their consent, yet draw the line at sex. The question, posed to an imaginary cat, left us in the audience uncomfortable and unsettled.
This is a recurring theme; the more contentious moments within the play are unsettling but are perfectly balanced with light-hearted comedy and quippy anecdotes. During some more relaxed moments, Bobby becomes almost relatable, with the effect that it is all too easy to forget who he is talking to, and the disturbing context of those conversations.
The production also tells a poignant tale of human loneliness. Bobby is isolated in life with no familial or friendly relationships to tether him. His relationship with his father is slowly revealed throughout the performance, beginning with passing references and jibes, and ending in a dramatic finale that brings us to where their relationship died.
The play invites us to question masculine identity as Bobby struggles to align his insecurities with what society expects men to act like. Adding and shedding layers of clothing during scene transitions highlighted this emotional journey as he spiralled further and further away from societal acceptance – all against a bizarre backdrop of interspecies relations.
Linus Karp is spectacular in his role as Bobby, perfectly encapsulating the meaning of the word ‘awkward’. Fidgetty, jittery, and constantly on edge, Karp’s portrayal was spectacular, fully breaking down the barrier between fiction and reality.
The stage itself was minimalistic and relied on narration to clue the audience as to what shape it took. A single bed onstage amongst the typical clatter of an untidy room, and (perhaps not so typical) shelves of animal food. The set was not static but transformed from a bedroom into a motel room and a forest.
Witty, unsettling, and undeniably awkward, Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve F*cked is as interesting and bizarre as the title suggests.