Review: Whale of a Time at Alphabetti Theatre

The play explores friendship and masculinity in a unique way.

Rebecca Sykes
30th May 2022
Image: Twitter @Alphabetti
Exploring friendship and masculinity, the newest play at Alphabetti Theatre stars Steve Byron as Albert, call him Al, who has spent 25 years alone inside a whale until Robbie (Luke Maddison) washes in.

On Wednesday, I went to Alphabetti for the first time with a few friends and I had the full intention of writing down notes for this review. Apart from writing 'lovely' and 'must go again', I didn't have time for any more notes as I was swept into the energy of the place and was amazed by the performance. The environment is so lovely, warm, and welcoming that it was absolutely the perfect theatre for the world premiere of Whale of a Time.

It begins with Robbie, a man in his twenties, getting washed into a whale and Albert seeing another human for the first time in 25 years. They discuss all the trivial things Albert has missed- what is a vegan sausage roll?- then, it becomes North East based- who's Raoul Moat?- and, then, it moves on to the personal. Robbie tells Al about his own daughter, who he knows as the owner of the bakery near his workplace and reveals he has a grandchild.

The play shifts with ease from comedy, to nostalgia, to a serious and thoughtful commentary on what it means to be a man in different generations.

The play shifts with ease from comedy, to nostalgia, to a serious and thoughtful commentary on what it means to be a man in different generations. It touches sensitively and briefly on outdated views of homophobia and being 'macho' as Al learns from Robbie. Robbie talks about helping his mate see if his testicular area is healthy and Al is amazed he would do that, to which Robbie offers something like 'well, I would do the same for you, too, if you needed it!'. Soon, after Al realises it is fine to dance with a man and be actual friends, there's a perfect musical scene with dancing and bonding that sparks joy.

Image: Facebook @ Alphabetti Theatre

Another notable moment is the discussion about fathers. Al, a man who missed out on being a great father, scorns Robbie's inadequate father. Robbie's father, among other things, blamed him for his mother dying during giving birth to him. Robbie's such a sweet soul, he deserved better! One of the things that Robbie struggled with was tying shoelaces as he'd never been taught, and there's such a lovely moment with Al teaching him how to tie them.

The ending came as a shock- there was a twist for somebody like me who was so entranced by the performances and not ready for reality to set in.

If you want to have a whale of a time, I recommend watching Whale of a Time! The play is running until Saturday the 4th of June 2022.

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