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February 29, 2012 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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Review: Be Glad You’re Neurotic

Be Glad You’re Neurotic
Phil Braithwaite
Directed by Nigel Edgecombe
Gryphon Theatre

I’m always a little nervous before watching a monologue. When they work, they’re fantastic. When they don’t, you’re stuck listening to the self-absorbed drivel of a character you couldn’t care less about; you know that if the actor picks up on your lack of enthusiasm, they can only take it personally. Thankfully, although self absorbed, Phil Braithwaite’s character falls in the former category.

Braithwaite’s inspiration for Be Glad You’re Neurotic was a hilariously outdated book of the same name written by Louis E. Bisch, a self-proclaimed neurotic whose ideas were considered dubious even when the book was published in the 1930s. Discovered in an opshop, the book is a catalyst for the narrator’s exploration of neurosis—his own, his audience’s, and his world’s. Fuelled by a break-up his obsessive tendencies had a major role in causing, Braithwaite provokes himself into a state of confusion and back to clarity.

The audience took a while to warm to Braithwaite, partly because energetic hand wringers aren’t the most enthralling of sorts; indeed, Braithwaite was initially quite irritating. The repetitive gestures, the stumbling over words, the over-analysis, and then re-analysis of absolutely everything—it was no surprise to find his girlfriend had left him. However, his earnestness endeared and it would have been hard not to empathise with him as he struggled so persistently, yet failed so absolutely, to figure himself out.

Braithwaite was also very funny; the audience began laughing within ten seconds of his entrance and continued until his exit. A cleverly-made advertisement for the book, which fondly mocked early black-and-white propaganda while hinting at the absurdities of Bisch’s work, won the most laughter and quirkily complemented Braithwaite’s performance, as did a projected PowerPoint of images that frequently overstated what he was agonising over.

The theatre was full, and with so many Fringe pieces jostling for attention, this should act as an indication of the play’s considerable worth. Braithwaite’s script is witty, well researched, and charmingly-structured, while his acting is credible and well sustained. He is well-paired with director Nigel Edgecombe, who is brave in his minimalism and knows exactly when to leave something alone. This is a play that will be enjoyed by anyone who’s a little neurotic, associates with the neurotic, or has been accused of neuroticism. Or, to rephrase: this play will leave very few unmoved.

Be Glad You’re Neurotic runs from 21st – 25th of February at 8pm.

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