by Laura Ferguson
From the mind of Alexander Sparrow, character study extraordinaire, now comes his new invention: Fred from Featherston. Katie Boyle opens for him with another new character to grace the Wellington stage, Patricia Goldsack, or Pat to her friends and lovers. These two packed the hour at Cavern Club full of laughter and scandal. This development show has me excited for what a fully-realised performance will be.
Alexander Sparrow’s Fred is what my Nana would call an odd duck. One that quacks to the beat of his own wings. Fred is bombastic, gravelly-voiced and verbosely excessive, every story exaggerated to Big Fish proportions. Sparrow has this incredible way of transforming himself so you imagine him differently to how he really is. This time, he appears to have grown inches in height, become stocky in build and that gritty voice has me instantly placing the inevitable demarcations of age upon his face.
Fred’s stories are exaggerated. Exaggerated to the point of lying or instead being that speck of glimmering truth a far-off star in the depths of space seem to us. The star is there to be sure, but what has changed in the light-years it took to reach us is unknown. A localised version of Hollywood’s ‘Based on a True Story’.
In align with this, Fred gets himself into a lot of “compromising situations”, instances with a fish, a bull and a car, happened upon by various members of the Featherston community, relate to us that Fred is almost certainly an unreliable narrator. The line, oft repeated throughout the show, that Fred “had been partying quite hard and was naked at the time” should hint enough to illuminate the scenarios Fred finds himself in. Of course, he always has a reasonable explanation and those who bear witness to these circumstances are forever misconstruing the ‘true’ events.
This partiality to the truth and whether Fred can be believed is a recurring theme throughout the show and I was fascinated by Sparrow’s narrative parallels to the social commentary that dogged 2017 and is not appearing to taper anytime soon. Kellyanne Conway’s expression, “alternative facts” seems especially prevalent as well as ‘how many people need to accuse someone to be believed’ #MeToo brought out. Fred also has a grand way of claiming to be #1 in various titles such as being Featherston’s #1 jam jar collector and #1 male model, so long as his brother is away. I grin cheekily as such assertions would seem right at home in a certain POTUS’ Twitter feed.
However, the satire I am finding in every nook and cranny is not overt and my companions did not see these until I explained what I thought I’d found during a post-show libation. Am I just finding these things because I want to? Or is it that these nuances may need to be punched up a bit for regular audience members to discover what that tongue-in-cheekiness means?
There is no such question with Katie Boyle’s Pat Goldsack. Opening for Sparrow, Boyle unleashes Patricia Goldsack, upon us. This woman juxtaposes Fred entirely, perhaps being too honest as she runs us through her travelling Brothel and Swingers Club. Yes, Pat Goldsack is the octogenarian madam of such a business and beginning with such a flagrant outpouring of sexuality is a bit of a shock, but a pleasant one.
With utterances of “he can be mounted easily from here” referring to an audience member and listing the lubrication options for tonight including “used to be strawberry”, Pat aligns herself with abject truthfulness. I have to admit, I love her. She is fun and flirty, her sexually frank manner blending easily into her grandmotherly nature. Her breathy voice is still caring and fussy in that way grandparents are, except the subject matter jauntily diverts away from the more stereotypical worries of whether I’ve been eating well or am warm enough. Whether we identify as a top or bottom is much more Pat’s game.
These characters are still being developed, this show being a teasing glance into their evolution and I’m not sure if Sparrow and Boyle intend on continuing to do the show together or separately. Sitting in a bar with my friends discussing the show afterwards, we had this vision of wanting to see them together and interacting, their differences and similarities playing off each other as if they were in a Graham Lineham sitcom about two neighbours in a nursing home. Whether or not this will come to fruition is something Fred from Featherston and Pat Goldsack will have to enlighten me to next time. And I’m looking forward to next time, may 2018 bring many more of their delightful antics.
The development season of Fred from Featherston is finished for now, but you can catch Pat Goldsack at Fat Comedy this Friday, 2nd of February. You can find tickets here.