Derby Theatre, Thursday 2nd June, 2016
This brand new piece is written by the cast of two, namely Fatih Goksu and Andy Mandoiu. Fresh and funny, it examines the objectification of men that has given rise to gym culture and addiction to exercise. The pressure to mould one’s love handles into a six-pack is immense but one which I have thus far managed to resist.
The pair address a video camera, YouTubers making a post about their philosophy/exercise program, called Trans Tatum – trans as in transition, Tatum as in Channing, the beefcake actor. They evangelise about their method but in between their videos, the cracks appear in their friendship. As Andy becomes increasingly driven and obsessed, his personality changes. He becomes less nice to know; while Fatih struggles with self-consciousness, unable to look at his own reflection.
It’s a fast-moving, ever-changing kaleidoscope of ideas. Director Lewis Pike keeps the changes of pace and style coming, channelling the energy of his versatile actors, so that nothing is allowed to become static. It’s not all banter, quips and funny voices. Behind the running around and physical jerks, there is a thought-provoking teasing out of important issues. Male suicide is touched upon, addiction, self-esteem, peer pressure, media pressure… There’s a great deal packed into just one hour.
Andy Mandoiu is the more assertive with an excellent line in famous boxer impressions, while Fatih Goksu is more sensitive, struggling to get results. He addresses the camera as if it’s his confidante or a modern-day form of confessional – which is another comment on today in itself. The idea that conforming to a physical norm makes you a better person is held up for question, in a wide range of amusing ways. A doughnut and cigarette are subjected to trial and subsequent execution. Captions on a screen behind the performers undermine their claims and statistical ‘evidence’.
The performers rarely stay still for a second, expending a great deal of energy in physical exercise and physical comedy. The writing and the performance may be fresh but the hot little studio at Derby Theatre certainly isn’t, reeking as it does of sweat – for authenticity, I believe!
Trans Tatum is a joy from start to finish, a hugely entertaining piece that actually says something. One image, perhaps, encapsulates the show exactly: Andy doing press-ups over a full-length mirror, mixing the narcissism and masochism that are at the heart of gym culture. Clearly, Optical Fraud is a company of exciting new talent, if this play is anything to go by. The show deserves a longer run and a wider audience.