Four Woke Baes
Reviewed – 16th August 2019
“a clever, awkward and incredibly tense comedy”
Four Woke Baes, written by Jonathan Caren, directed by Teddy Bergman and presented by Hidden People; the show features the true story of four men on a stag party drinking beers and barbecuing out in the woods. Everything changes, however, when an alluring female approaches their campsite.
The show builds in awkward tension and uses the breaking of this tension to create most of its comedic moments. None of the guys are particularly good at holding a conversation with Emma (Lyndsy Fonseca) not just because of her ravishingly “symmetrical features”, but because of her vastly superior intellect and ability to dissect each of the guys’ behaviour. So a large amount of this performance sits you in a pool of awkwardness, begging to be alleviated by someone. Oftentimes, Boardman (Quincy Dunn-Baker) is the person that provides this. Dunn-Baker’s performance has the audience in hysterics as his heavy-handed comments land at almost perfect moments to assuage the tension in the room. However, some of the more pure comedy for comedies sake moments aren’t as sound and serve, in the context of the quality of the performance, to feel slightly cheapening.
Consistent brilliance shines from each of the actors as they work through a well-written story to hook you in. Learning about each of the guys’ lives through Emma’s diagnosing of them helps to build a strong connection to each character. When the show reaches its precipice, a do it or don’t do it moment, you can hear a pin drop… it’s skin-crawlingly tense.
Emma’s soothingly calm yet aggressively inquisitive demeanour often has the guys on the back foot and being very defensive. Though the conversation is not often elevated into any form of argument, you can feel the unwillingness of the four men to allow themselves to be read by, or to learn from, a woman. The piece’s overall tone appears to be one of a feminist nature, and achieving this with a male-dominated cast is incredibly impressive.
Colin Grenfell’s lighting and Jeff Gardener’s sound design are a highlight of the play, being integral in creating a natural feel to the performance. Together, they ease the piece through time and slowly travel from a sunset evening into the dead of night. It is done so carefully and concisely you almost don’t notice it happening, such understated and considered tech is hard to come by.
Four Woke Baes is an exceptionally interesting piece. Knowing that the story is true, you feel as if you’re watching some of the most intimate moments of a person’s life, which is quite a unique feeling. It’s a clever, awkward and incredibly tense comedy but overarchingly is a thought provoking piece of theatre.
Reviewed by Craig Unadkat
Four Woke Baes
Underbelly Cowgate until 25th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019