Review: F*ckboys for Freedom (Sweet on Grassmarket)
Updated: Jun 10, 2022
Ah, subtlety. What a thing it is. This devised production from Pandorum Theatre Company bids us on what turns out to be an adventure into a mystical land of modern male culture. Promising both cultural commentary and crass comedy, the key point I wondered going in was “who is this playing for?” Featuring Kanye West, the “bros of the round table” and a noble steed that I shan’t forget any time soon, yet trying to balance out serious points about modern western society – can it balance out for any audience member?
Well, what one immediately notices is how sharp the writing is, combining an important message with the most juvenile humour to satisfy those with immature taste whilst giving them something to think about. Though some jokes seem recycled, certain sequences are very imaginative and original. I have been lucky enough to catch the show at the beginning of its run and so shan’t spoil anything, but scenes such as one in which our protagonist learns to masturbate are likely to cause laughter in even the most prudish of audience members. The difficulty of the show is that it tries to appeal to two audiences – those who come for political and cultural commentary and those who come for nostalgically childish jokes and shock value. Out of the two audiences, I’d say that the latter would get more out of this performance, able to enjoy the comedic elements in the moment and the more satirical elements in the hours and days to follow. Those with a more serious sensibility and less taste for genital jokes are warned that this is not the show for you.
The satirical moments are when the show shines the most, though there are times when it strays a little too far from satire and too far into direct-to-the-point politics. I found these had less of an impact than those comedic moments where misogyny was casually glossed over, for example in the “f*ckboy Olympics”. These scenes generally had a stronger impact and reaction because the audience could recognise for themselves the issue with what they were seeing, rather than being directly told. More serious moments had the protagonist questioning whether his chavvy, callous and selfish destiny was inevitable, or if it could or should be avoided. Given their satire had worked a charm up until that point, I was a little disappointed by the change in direction.
Aside from the shifts in tone, “F*ckboys for Freedom” really delivers consistent, hearty laughs. This is undoubtedly due to the hilarious performances of Pandorum 4-person cast. James Hughes portrays a delightfully bewildered and likable lead as James, the precocious teen in question, and Debi Pirie and Emma Harley deliver an array of equally entertaining characters from gorgeous, winsome nymphs to slimy, dog-like sex-fiends. If you do choose to see it, just try looking away from Jack Midgley. Playing various characters, he was in grave danger of stealing the show entirely with the Jim Carrey-esque elasticity in his movement and facial expressions that never failed to provoke a laugh.
Is “F*ckboys for Freedom” subtle? No. It has something to say, and by George it says it, but this is a satire for people who don’t like satire and a piece of escapism for those who rarely allow themselves to laugh at childish humour. Purely for how much my side hurt by the end of the performance, I’d say this show delivers fantastic value for money. As far as the company are concerned, this show proves they have major squad goals, and I look forward to seeing what they produce in the future. Three stars.
Whispers from the crowd: "I was dying of laughter and I loved the music, but it was to take the serious scenes seriously. Four stars."
F*ckboys for Freedom is on at 21:30 at Sweet Venues on the Grassmarket (Venue 18) until the 27th of August