ME AND MY DOLL
The Old Joint Stock, Birmingham, Thursday 28th February, 2019
This two-hander, written and directed by Lucy Bird, gets off to a bit of a Shirley Valentine start with twenty-something Kate speaking to herself and to the blow-up doll given to her by her ‘friends’ because of her apparent inability to land herself a real boyfriend. The doll is a punchbag at first and then a sounding board as Kate vents her frustrations and then tries out a more ‘feminine’ and nurturing manner, as prescribed by the company she works for. Kate finds she is rubbish at conforming to gender expectations, and why should she have to change at all, just to get along in a man’s world?
Miraculously, the doll comes to life, in an endearingly funny performance by Thomas Bulpett. He unearths Kate’s secret stash of rom-com DVDs and learns all about life and love from them. There’s a lot of fun to be had spotting all the references, but Kate, unlike the heroines of these movies, can tell the difference between reality and fiction. In a reversal of Pygmalion, the Doll tries to teach manners and acceptable behaviour to the human, so Kate can go out with a ‘real man’ (whatever that is). As their relationship develops in complexity, we wonder who needs whom, who is playing with whom, and can we ever tell if what someone says they feel about us is real. Is the Doll genuine in his affections or does he, like everyone, have his own agenda? Will he get what he wants or will the situation blow up (heh) in his face?
Rachel Baker is funny, volatile and tender as the feisty Kate, while Thomas Bulpett is simply excellent in this latter-day Toy Story. Lucy Bird’s script is fresh, witty and rich, touching and clever, and as director, she ensures the actors explore the physicality of their roles to the full: the Doll’s movements, Kate’s terrible dancing…
Thoroughly enjoyable and engaging, this is a rom-com for our times. Foul-mouthed and funny, this production by Birmingham’s own Paperback Theatre Company is a vibrant new work that is definitely not a let-down!