Awkward Conversations with Animals I’ve F*cked is a misleading title. These conversations, totalling five with five different animals, grow gradually larger in scale (and ambition). They are far from awkward and instead feel more like a pleasent breeze through this young man’s unconventional love life, at least at first. Bobby (Linus Karp) is the twenty-something protagonist, alone on stage, who works for an animal conservation charity and struggles to maintain relationships. We learn of a turbulent family history, and these facts about his life elevate and reveal much as things moves forward. Rob Hayes’ play is broken up into a series of monologues which expertly ‘unclothe’ our timid protagonist as he increasingly ‘fucks around’. We find him in various stages of undress in places such as his messy bedroom, the claustrophobia of which was aided to by the intimate theatre.
The King’s Head Theatre is an independent charity, and resides behind the back of King’s Head pub in Islington. The process of walking through the pub to get to the theatre contributed to the confessional tone of the piece, as if we were being invited into this man’s strange world. On stage, we see the mess and squalor of his bedroom, with the odd clue to his sexual habits. A small toy giraffe resides on his bedside table, along with a picture of a Great Dane, and some cat food. The reality of what is going on here is hard to make out; the truth is refracted through the words of this perpetually anxious young man. At times, the conversations seem almost normal – ‘what are we? What is this?’ The uncertainties in the aftermath of any spontaneous sexual encounter are divulged, only this time the conversation is one-sided. These creatures never talk back and never disturb the space in any way – they aren’t there. Bobby makes similar emotional connections with all his conquests. He, fool that he is, falls in love, but can’t seem to catch a break.
The play tackles the absurdity of how we perceive and interact with animals, and how we perceive and interact with humans. Bobby is intensely lonely, and the animals he talks to act as a blank slate in which he can project his anxieties and fears about the world. He uses them to position himself in some realm of the real and normal, but he is not. What we realise, however, as the play moves forward, is that neither are we. We also happen to have a pretty messed up relationship with animal bodies, it just happens that the majority of us don’t want to fuck them. The animals Bobby talks to aptly do not have their own voice, and the absence of consent in this scenario is disturbing and confusing. The post-coital discussions reveal the timidity of our understanding of bodies. What are animal bodies and how are we to interact with them? Frankly, even the animal lovers among us know very little. It is easy to switch off and away, but this play allows us to confront these issues head on.
The humour in this play is brilliant – and it doesn’t detract from these questions. The personal delusions of Bobby are quite tragic. The situations gradually escalate until there is apparently no way forward, and the absurdity of our amoral protagonist makes this a charming and intriguing production.
'Awkward Conversations with Animals I've F*cked 'is at the King's Head theatre until 27th of April. Tickets can be purchased here.