Me, As a Penguin

‘I’d hate to give the impression that my allegiance can be bought with baked goods, but there was Battenberg on the seats when I arrived.’ This has more to offer than just cake, writes FRANCESCA HILL.

as a penguin Comedy Corpus Playroom Francesca Hill Hellie Cranney me

Corpus Playroom, 13th – 17th November, 7pm


Dir: Hellie Cranney

Sometimes a little-known, oddly-premised play comes along and gives you you a very pleasant surprise. Me, As A Penguin is undoubtedly one of them.

Meet shy loner Stitch, his heavily-pregnant sister Liz, her overwhelmed boyfriend Mark, and a man dressed as a penguin, as they experience what we can only hope will be one of the more surreal nights of their lives. Stitch has a bit of an incident at the aquarium, Liz dispenses advice and consumes vast quantities of Battenberg cake, and Mark tries in vain to keep hold of his favourite sofa.

I’d hate to give the impression that my allegiance can be bought with baked goods, but there was Battenberg on the seats when I arrived. And that set the tone for a great show: an hour later I emerged still chuckling. Short, pithy one-liners come thick and fast, and while these things never sound as good in print, trust me: a giant penguin saying “I’m always civil aren’t I? Bitch…” is hilarious even if you haven’t managed to get your hands on a bit of cake.

Thanks to some skilful directing and a great set, Me, As A Penguin manages, charmingly, to be both surreal and realistic at the same time. If you put the penguins to one side, the relationships between the characters require few stretches of the imagination. Max Upton as Stitch delivers a subtle but compelling performance. He avoids the minefield of camp angst cliché, and conveys a character painfully aware of his own eccentricity.

Hugh Stubbin’s Mark will ring bells with anyone who’s ever dated a British male caught panicked in the headlights of their own life (i.e. most British girls ever). Even if his late transformation is somewhat unrealistic (probably playwright Tom Wells’ fault rather than Stubbins’), scenes towards the end where Mark clumsily tries to reach out and help his girlfriend’s depressed brother are undoubtedly touching. Gotta love awkward attempts at male bonding.

However, the star of the show is Laura Jayne Ayres in the role of Liz. Utterly convincing whether moaning about the pressure on her bladder or trying to be a good big sister, she delivers her one-liners with flair, and walks confidently along the edge of many a northern stereotype without ever stepping too far over.

If you’re looking for a quirky, fun comedy about trying to find your place in the world, (or potentially just some Battenberg) then Me, As A Penguin is a good place to start.