Writer: George Saunders
Director: Josh Roche
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
Adapted by the company, and staged verbatim from 2014 Folio Prize Winner George Saunders’ short story, Winky takes the obsession with self-help books and seminars and plants it firmly in one man’s reality.
Neil Yaniky (Joe Boylan) is stuck in a rut: socially inept, more than a little awkward, and failing at life. Desperate for change, Neil goes the ‘The Seminar’, where slick guru Tom Rodgers (Ed Davis) helps him identify the person in his life who is “crapping in his metaphorical oatmeal”; his distinctly odd sister, Winky (Amy Tobias). Partially narrated by Rogers’ deadpan assistant Vicky (Lauren Stone), this gentle yet incisive tale reflects on the self-congratulatory attitude to putting yourself first and the challenges of supporting a loved one who falls outside societal norms.
Like its protagonist, the piece is unassuming but with hidden depths. Stone is hilariously emotionless, allowing the inner world of the other characters, so well-drawn, to shine through. Boylan is superbly understated as Neil; outwardly meek but bristling with inward disappointment and anger which leeches through his mild-mannered exterior like beads of sweat. With hints at a disappointing life harvested from the seeds of mediocre parenting, you can both identify and sympathise with his plight. The religious zealotry Tobias’ Winky clings to in order to cope with the negativity she faces in everyday life sits in beautiful counterpoint to Rogers’ self-centred proselytising, with Ed Davis is every inch the oleaginous orator, pressing palms and charming the crowd. Tobias is touchingly child-like; her character choosing to create a safe, manageable world rather than be destroyed by reality, while Boylan remains in her eyes the ‘perfect’ brother by quietly swallowing his ungenerous impulses.
Runs until 24thAug