Thursday, 29 January 2015

Fat Man - at the Vault Festival

THERE have been many stories told about Orpheus, the legendary musician, poet and prophet in Ancient Greek legend. However none perhaps as inventive as Fat Man.
The brainchild of actor Martin Bonger, Fat Man is a show that combines theatre, stand up and music to tell a contemporary and bittersweet story of the man who tired to retrieve his wife Eurydice from the underworld.
It begins a short run at the Waterloo-based Vault Festival on Thursday and Martin says he's looking forward to bringing his creation to the stage.
"It's about Orpheus doing stand up for the gods who are represented by the audience," says Martin. "We see him being trapped between the underworld and the celestial in some kind of limbo as he wrestles with his emotions.
"In simple terms he looks back at what went wrong and how he lost his wife and takes to eating to help him.
"In my telling of the story, which is done as an autobiographical stand up routine with music, to begin with he's saying how great he was but what he comes to find out is that he's mortal - that's the journey of the show."
Martin has spent the last few months creating the piece and performed a series of previews at Ovalhouse last year.
"I have been wanting to do Fat Man for a while as it's a fascinating story," he says. "It's been brewing in my mind for a couple of years!
"I am mostly an actor but stand up is something I've always been drawn to so I was interested in creating from that point of view.
"The relationship a stand up has with his audience is like the one Orpheus has with the gods. The audience can be tough but if the stand up works the crowd in the right way they can be incredibly powerful.
"In many ways the world of stand up is therefore is a great fit for the story. Comics often put their grief out there to be laughed at while searching for some kind of catharsis and Orpheus is that man. I also look pretty disheveled and tell his story through a series of often painful jokes and anecdotes."
But why make him fat?
"The story is about love, loss and eating your way out of grief," Martin explains. "The Orpheus I've created in Fat man is fat with shame and conceit, trying to cling on to the belief that because of his music he's as powerful as a god.
"He's dealing with a huge range of emotions - not least about the fact he's lost his wife and is trying to get her back.
"He starts at this place of godly confidence but ends up back down on earth humbled by failure.
"Some people do eat when they are depressed and Orpheus is certainly stuck in a rut of despair so he takes to eating to help him - it's immediate sustenance in more ways than one."
As the show progresses Fat Man's girth increases so he resembles a 17 stone man.
"I do get bigger and bigger during the show," laughs Martin. "I eat donuts Homer Simpson style but it's a way of showing the despair he feels done in a comic way.
"He goes on a big journey in more ways than one!"

Fat Man is on at the Vault Festival, Leake Street, Waterloo from January 28 until February 15. Tickets cost £13.50. Visit or call the box office on 020 7401 9603.

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