In a haphazard attempt to contact their dead friend, grieving roommates, Sam and Mickey, are visited by an actual ghost in Sweating Like A Stuck Pig, playing at the Hayman Theatre this FRINGE. Will this ghost relieve their anguish with everyone learning the true value of friendship? You’ll just have to read this mildly spoiler-y review to find out.
Sam and Mickey are played with a causal ease rarely seen in theatre, talking over each other during arguments and pausing their dialogue in contemplative stillness. The show’s direction must be commended for its complete lack of fear when it comes to silence. The first several minutes, which consist of a potentially unproductive and coma-inducing back-and-forth between tired friends, quickly becomes downright cosy with its natural proclivity for realistically mumbled words and delayed responses. Even when struck with the supernatural, these felt like real people with real lives. The fact I remember all their names without them being mentioned often is testament to the show’s absorbing atmosphere.
Viktor, their resident ghost friend, is performed with a risky level of fop, but never becomes overwhelming or even that unrealistic. When vases are tipped and tables are smacked, it’s done with a reserved petulance that anyone in his “lost soul” circumstance can empathise with.
Thankfully, all important action takes place inside this one apartment setting. A necessity for a bottle show like this. With nothing but a couch and some elevations, all actors use a variety of levels for a variety of moods, with all three periodically sitting on the ground, slumping on the couch, and jolting out of the room in totally believable ways.
The roommate’s collective yet unspoken mourning of their dead friend is revealed fairly early on but ends up serving no other purpose than to get a cooky ghost to fall into their lives. This becomes a common trend in SLASP, where character actions do nothing but bluntly “guide” us through the story. Viktor complains out loud about being “summoned” so the characters (and audience) immediately know what’s happening. His name is tattooed on his arm so the characters (and audience) can effortlessly know his name. Mickey receives a freaky vision to fast-forward his (and the audience’s) sceptic-to-believer journey. Even the idea of using a Ouija board to contact the dead (and it working) is bizarrely uncreative. There’s even the ‘character-holds-a-photo-frame-in-both-hands-to-show-they-care’ moment which nobody in real life has ever done. Ever.
You would think this ghost would have some relevance to Sam’s plan to reach his dead friend, made more intriguing as this mysterious spirit also has amnesia. But not only is Viktor literally just some random visitor, his lack of memory is also never paid off, as if the character had his history written away to skip over a needless backstory exposition monologue. This could be excused if the story had more important topics to delve into, but no character discusses the concept of death in any meaningful way, including the person who’s actually dead. More time is spent on stoner slapstick, which did add to the show’s carefree charm, but simply went on for too long. When bows are taken, Sweating Like A Stuck Pig plays like the 2nd act of a larger story, where we’ve missed both the initial introductions to everyone’s lives, as well as the final conclusion when everything is wrapped up and everyone learns a valuable lesson. It just ends unresolved and unenthusiastically.
Overall, this is a delightful little show that could have been so much more. All three actors would easily hold their next-to-flawless acting for a full, 2-Act production, but even under 1 hour in length, the story wanes and fails to have much of a point, verbally stated or otherwise, making for a gradually shallow viewing experience for Sweating Like A Stuck Pig. And no, I don’t know why it’s called that.