Friday, November 11, 2016

Hey You! (Accidental Theatre until 11 November)

Hey You! is one of those shows that starts before you’ve realised, before you’ve even taken your seat.

On stage, bestselling self-help author Brad Peelawn is a full-on, uber-confident snake oil salesman who wants the audience to buy into his testosterone-fuelled solution to epidemic of male obesity. Actor Aaron Hickland totally disguises his Loughinisland roots behind a thick American drawl that challenges the “junk food jihadis” in the audience with questions that don’t really need answered and soon has us chanting slogans and entering into the hype.

When the mask slips, Brad reverts to a broken and hesitant unsure shell of his bouncy public persona, needing to hype himself up to become the salesman. The pace slows to a crawl as he realises that he too needs help and motivation, yet he knows the self-actualising advice he pedals is shallow and of no lasting succour.

The show alternates between these two extremes, ending – somewhat disappointingly, though perhaps realistically – in a depressed mood. Emily Foran’s direction frees Brad from being caged up on the stage, and allows him to get down amongst the great unwashed in the audience.
“I’ve been Brad Peelawn. You’ve been inspired.”

There’s no missing the wry wit of Joseph Nawaz in his forty minute play. His keen observations of human behaviour infuse the script and create a very believable, albeit slimy, Brad. The ‘net evaluation’ prop is beautifully far fetched and no man will wear corduroy with confidence ever again.

At first the sales pitch is absurd. But it aptly sums up much of the marketing that bombards our eyes and ears. While the women’s magazine market is perched on a foundation of quick diets and body shape analysis, society’s obsession with a model of masculinity expressed in adage, fashion, sex and sport is not really that different. If we let our guard down, our psyche seems to soak in the cheap superficial counsel of Brad and his peers, undermining our wellbeing while pretending to be fixing us.

Before he moves on to pitch his crazy advice to sponges in another city, you can catch Brad Peelawn one more time in Hey You! tonight in Accidental Theatre* at 8pm. (The venue’s book bar opens at 7.30pm).

*Wellington Buildings, Wellington Street, BT1 6HT opposite the entrance to the Northern Bank Danske Bank vault and between Made in Belfast and Patisserie Valerie.

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