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A CurtainUp London Review
The Ungrateful Biped
“What does a civilised man drivel on about with most satisfaction? Himself." — The Man
The most distinctive item of clothing is the man's shoes: pink plastic crocs distancing themselves as footwear normally worn in the English wintry weather but allegedly very comfortable where comfort is more important than looks. He doesn't mention the shoes. Instead there is a diatribe against all humanity as he fills the stage with word pictures of self revulsion and increasing desperation to be noticed.

Actor Philip Goodhew has persuaded Rupert Graves to direct this self penned 75 minute monologue inspired by Fyodor Dostotevsky's Notes From the Underground which is sometimes translated as Letters From the Underworld. The Russian historical context is removed. In this setting the man is making a video diary to explain his self absorption and self loathing. It feels a bit like the wedding guest buttonholed by the Ancient Mariner but not as dramatic or as interesting.

Over twenty years ago Graves won a Best Actor in Montreal in Intimate Relations a film written and directed by Philip Goodhew so directing The Ungrateful Biped might be payback.

The man opens with a description of his physical illness, cirrhosis of the liver before expanding on his mental condition, an educational failure and "blighted by his intelligence". He rails against empathy and is full of contrariness and contradictions. He tells us about his work in the Benefits Office where the clients are probably better dressed and better adjusted, despite being out of work.

Natalie Furnell-Calvert’s set has draped sheets as a backdrop and the recording video is seen on an old television set. The man too is unkempt with a cheap suit and greasy hair. Pablo Fernandez Baz's lighting gives some variety to the monologue albeit in technicolour.

It is a difficult play for the audience, nervous laughter occasionally reacted to the jokes as the man railed against popular culture, "Simon Cowell is the new Moses," and I am not sure how he managed to link Prince Charles, Dalai Llama and Amanda Holden.

Philip Goodhew convinces in the role but sadly doesn't make us warm to him or his version of Dostoyevsky's story.

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The Ungrateful Biped
Written and performed by Philip Goodhew after Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Directed by Rupert Graves
Design: Natalie Furnell-Calvert
Lighting Design: Pablo Fernandez Baz
Running time: 75 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 020 7735 8664
Booking to 17th February 2018
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 31st January 2018 performance at the White Bear Theatre, 138 Kennington Park Rd, London SE11 4DJ (Tube: Kennington)
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