Aug 20 2023 | By More

★★★★☆       Breathtaking performance

Leith Arches (Venue 324): Mon 7 – Tue 22 Aug 2023
Review by Tom Ralphs

One of two plays that Saltire Sky Theatre are bringing to Leith Arches for this year’s Fringe, MANikin looks at society’s views on obesity and obsession with body image.

Developed with support from Obesity UK it is an honest and unflinching portrait of the way Fraser Patterson, an obese man in his mid 20s, perceives himself and is perceived by others.

Josh Brock in MANikin. Pic: Saltire Sky

Fraser, played by Josh Brock runs through his life to date, opening at breakneck pace playing his mother bringing home the baby and running through his early school years and the friendship he strikes up with a boy called Jack. He patrols the simple stage set, consisting of a sofa, clothes rail and some mannequins, and the area around it, drawing people into his world and his story.

The supportive, uncomplicated early years serve to set up a contrast with the more complicated life that follows, where bullying because of his weight leads to self-doubt, aggression and mistrust of others, alongside a desperate need to find a comfortable place where his weight isn’t taking centre stage in his life.

heart wrenching

The scenes of bullying, intimidation and victimisation are spliced between scenes of happiness and success where things fall into place and a brighter future emerges for Fraser. They serve to make the scenes where the happiness ends and a different reality takes its place all the more poignant and heart wrenching.

Brock gives an award winning performance as Fraser, always engaging and always compelling as he takes hold of the show from the start and keeps an audience hanging on his every word and rooting for him all the way through. He is aided by a script by Nathan Scott-Dunn that is beautifully written, capturing the hopes and fears, the triumphs and tragedies of the first 25 years of Fraser’s life.

Josh Brock in MANikin. Pic: Saltire Sky

Under Nathan Scott-Dunn and Sands Stirling’s direction, the naturalism of the words and the range of voices captured in the script are brought to vivid life by Dunn, bringing an energy and wild enthusiasm to the comic moments, and a sense of loneliness, isolation, self-loathing and a desperate need to be loved and held in his bleakest moments.

There is a clever sound design underneath this, including frequent use of Meat Loaf songs as Fraser frames his own life around that of the unwitting role model, and the sound of needles being pulled off records each time he is jolted out of dreams of happiness and into an unpleasant reality.

The only minor issues with the production are some early moments when the delivery is slightly too fast to fully take in what is being said, and other times when the music is too loud and risks drowning out the words or pushing Brock to say them in a louder voice that makes them lose some of their intensity.

But these do not take away from a performance from Brock that makes this one of the finest one person plays on the fringe this year.

Running time: one hour and 10 minutes (no interval)
Leith Arches (Ground Level), 6 Manderston Street, EH6 8LY (Venue 324)
Monday 7 – Tuesday 22 August 2023
Daily (not 10, 17): 4pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Saltire Sky links

Twitter: @SaltireSkyTC
Facebook: @saltireskytheatre
Instagram: @saltireskytheatre


Josh Brock in MANikin. Pic: Saltire Sky



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