Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Hubert and the Yes Sock – building confidence in the joy of socks (Tinderbox in The MAC as part of CQAF until 9 May) #cqaf18

What timid Hubert needs is an injection of confidence to help him find office camaraderie, friendship and love. Played by Dan Leith (who also wrote the show), the shy character is thrust into the spotlight by Mr Sock (Keith Singleton) who offers him the gift of the red ‘Yes Sock’ that can a-pair-ently turn his life around. But right from the start you suspect that this so-called ‘fresh start’ is as fresh as the November 2015 one up on the hill at Stormont.

Over 55 minutes, Hubert and the Yes Sock’s audience watch this excruciating well-crafted exercise in discomfort and humiliation as Hubert pulls on the sock and becomes a puppet in Mr Sock’s glitzy game show. The comic actors lean into long pauses and deafening silences, feeding off the audience’s laughter while director Patrick J O’Reilly creates boundaries on stage with jeopardy when they are breached.

There’s a creeping feeling of anticipation that “the sock that makes you want to say Yes” will create a second monster on the stage. Socksual innuendo was perhaps inevitable, yet when Hubert gets overexcited, the recourse to cheap school boy humour threatens to become the show’s Achilles heel. Watch out for the final Carly Simon twist: cruel and barely forgivable.

Audience participation cleverly heightens the sense of anxiety and tries to make us complicit in the charlatan confidence-building practice. As we giggle and guffaw, we question whether Hubert’s new found confidence is a cure for anything that needed to be healed and cotton on that the manipulative Mr Sock – he’s a bit of a heel – is empowered rather than empowering.

Hubert and the Yes Sock finds a lot of cheese between its toes, with a toy xylophone, glittery props and the sole mates’ brightly coloured polo necks (pink and green) and trousers (mustard and purple). Giver of the sock and game show host Singleton sports a thick gold chain and a sock medallion that could make a great Christmas gift on the Tinderbox website for mindful shoppers!

Dan and the Tinderbox team have created a memorable production that skilfully lace up the audience’s insecurities and shyness with the characters’ foibles in this slick and humorous performance.

Hubert and the Yes Sock runs in The MAC until 9 May as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.

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