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Sniff | Park Theatre

Advertising executive Alex just needs a piss. Except, he can’t do that in front of people, and Liam, a talkative coke-head who has appeared from the blocked-off stall of the disgusting pub toilet, has no intention of leaving him alone to finish. 

This is the premise of Sniff, the latest offering from London-based theatre company Make it Beautiful, currently running at Park Theatre. It is ostensibly a simple one, as Liam (Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson) and Alex (Felix Grainger) get to know one another in the confines of the bathroom, doing lines of coke and sharing stories from their wildly different lives. Alex is about to propose to his girlfriend, and is regretting choosing the worst pub in town (or actually city – there’s a cathedral). Liam just seems to want somebody to talk to. But, as the piece ambles towards its shocking conclusion, we learn that nothing is quite as it seems. 

Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson and Felix Grainger co-wrote the script, which was partially developed through improvisation with director Ben Purkiss, and this style of development is evident in its rapid-fire dialogue and somewhat bizarre but hilarious tangents. Fogarty-Graveson and Grainger also co-star as Liam and Alex respectively, playing off one another superbly throughout.

Fogarty-Graveson shines as Liam, confident and charismatic but with a troubled undertone.Grainger’s Alex is perhaps a little less well-developed, feeling at times like a caricature of a city boy, but Grainger imbues him with an excellent nervous energy and delivers his ridiculous advertising pitches (of which there are several scattered through the piece) with aplomb. Some backstory is revealed through flashbacks, in which Fogarty-Graveson and Grainger take on supporting roles to flesh out the story. These are less effective than the rest of the piece, pulling the audience out of the bubble that the two actors have created.

With just a few set pieces, a toilet door replete with hazard tape and graffiti, a washstand and urinal and a handful of posters, the black box setting of Park Theatre’s Park90 studio is transformed into a pub toilet. Glimpses of the outside world, through sound effects when the door opens, again detract somewhat from the piece, and overall it feels at its best when the audience is not pulled from the present moment and location.

What starts as a sparky comedy develops into a much deeper statement on gambling, addiction, and how our choices have repercussions. This is a play which would be worth watching more than once, to see what clues scattered through the 70 minutes hint towards the shock twist at the end. 

Sniff runs at Park Theatre until 24 May. It is part of Park’s Make Mine a Double offer which allows patrons to see two shows on the same evening for a reduced rate. For more information and tickets, follow the link here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review


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