Neck or Nothing
Reviewed – 26th April 2019
“They balance sincerity and comedy throughout, allowing the audience a laugh even when the situation is heartbreakingly hopeless”
With a title like that and a poster of a lone bear standing tall and magnificent (in a space suit), it would be easy to assume the general plot outline – quirky man goes for gold, sacrifices everything, comes out victorious. The American dream is real, people! You just have to sacrifice everything! And apparently buy a space suit. And be a bear…
‘Neck or Nothing’ follows the story of Jens (James Murfitt), a man with a dream to make the ultimate contribution to humankind; to be the hero the world needs. And he plans on doing this whilst living in his brother Frank’s garage, being funded by his wife Martha (Katy Daghorn) who pulls double shifts at a failing bakery.
Co-writers and directors Christopher Neels and Callum Cameron have created a character with all the trappings of a victorious underdog: obsessive single-mindedness, a plan that seems completely ridiculous, a loving family whose faith begins to waver, and a small town that laughs at his brilliance. But rather than taking it to its Rocky Balboa conclusion, instead they highlight the sad reality of this trope, and of the inevitable damage caused by self-inflicted isolation, and toxic masculinity in general.
Murfitt, Daghorn and North all deliver enthusiastic and engaging performances. They balance sincerity and comedy throughout, allowing the audience a laugh even when the situation is heartbreakingly hopeless. Their characters are all surprisingly fleshed out – another twist on the classic underdog story, where all other characters beside the lead are usually kept in soft-focus.
Costume and set design (Sophia Pardon) are efficient but good fun – the star of the show is of course Jens’ ‘invention’- a home-made ‘ironman’ costume, cupcake tray serving well as a steel six-pack and cycling knee pads making excellent superhero-square shoulders. The video and lighting design (Rachel Sampley) does well to create various spaces on a small stage without overcomplicating and distracting from the main event.
In all, Neels and Cameron have succeeded in creating an off-beat comedy with just enough heart to get their message across, but not so much that you want to look away for sheer embarrassment. I look forward to seeing what Fledgling Theatre Co do next.
Reviewed by Miriam Sallon
Photography by Veronika Casarova
Neck or Nothing
Pleasance Theatre until 4th May
Previously reviewed at this venue: