Thursday, 18 June 2015

Theatre review: The Motherfucker with the Hat

Indhu Rubasingham makes a splash on her Lyttelton debut, as was probably inevitable with a play called The Motherfucker with the Hat1. Stephen Adly Guirgis' comedy follows ex-con Jackie (Ricardo Chavira,) whose life finally seems to be getting on track when he goes to girlfriend Veronica's (Flor De Liz Perez) flat only to find suspicious smells on the bedsheets and an unfamiliar hat hanging off the radiator. After a big fight with Veronica his next port of call is the person he trusts most, his AA sponsor Ralph (Alec Newman.) But for all his platitudes and prayers, Ralph's own marriage to Victoria (Nathalie Armin) is far from perfect. His own worst enemy, Jackie goes off on a comic Odyssey trying to find the truth about Veronica and her mystery lover, all the while coming close to endangering both his sobriety and his parole.

From the opening scene where Jackie, excited about finally getting a new job, returns to Veronica, it becomes clear that Guirgis has a gift for hilariously, filthily inventive dialogue, which the cast spit out at each other at great speed - the comic energy never dips, even when the play takes on more serious issues of how to be a real grown-up without drink or drugs as a crutch.


There's an especially well-observed scene in the home of Jackie's camp cousin Julio (Yul Vázquez,) when the urgency of trying to solve the latest problem Jackie has got himself into doesn't get in the way of Julio and Ralph's business networking. But the play is full of fun setpieces like this, and rockets along at a great pace.


The story takes place in three small New York apartments but Robert Jones' design, with sets sliding in and out of place while fire escapes float above them, helps make sure the intimate locations never feel lost on the huge stage (although I don't know if that would still be the case from the back of the Circle.) Throw in a great, comic but brutal fight scene (choreographed by Kev McCurdy) and The Motherfucker with the Hat fires on all cylinders.

The Motherfucker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis is booking in repertory until the 20th of August at the National Theatre's Lyttelton.

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes straight through.

1or The Mother with the Hat in announcements, or The Motherf**ker with the Hat on posters. On the Tube, obviously, even asterisks are too shocking so it's The Mother HUGE BLANK SPACE2 with the Hat.

2big enough to fit an unrelated article within the banner headline

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