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Comedy Fringe Theatre

Fringe 2022: Olives and Blowjobs Review

Through a powerful, self-assured, performance, Maddigan crafts a delicate balance of humour and sadness, beautifully merging the destructive blows of grief and family strife, with the humorous foibles of impassioned, yet careless, teenagers, each grappling with emotions and experiences much bigger than themselves.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Dressed in a creased white school shirt – with top button loose, and bottom-half, half-tucked into the waistband of some semi-formal black joggers – Ollie Maddigan darts onto the stage with the nervous, bundled-up buzz of a pubescent adolescent, perfectly capturing the fifteen-year-old self he seeks to portray. He launches immediately into an impressive, 70-minute confessional drama, based on the semi-autobiographical trajectory of his own teenage years. Through a powerful, self-assured, performance, Maddigan crafts a delicate balance of humour and sadness, beautifully merging the destructive blows of grief and family strife, with the humorous foibles of impassioned, yet careless, teenagers, each grappling with emotions and experiences much bigger than themselves.

This striking blend of wit and sorrow is present from the very start of the performance where, in the same lungful as he’s cynically dissecting the social standings of his peers, Maddigan reveals himself to be starting at a new school following the sudden death of his mother, which led to him moving in with his previously absent father. Powerfully demonstrating how life, with teenage angst in particular, shows little mercy for the mourning, Maddigan describes the impact of his mum’s death and his own subsequent grief through a series of well-placed anecdotes. From lovingly comedic recollections of his childhood, to his first time getting drunk at a house party, his performance is a fast-paced blur of life and loss.

With only a singular chair placed delicately in the centre of the stage, it is the strength of Maddigan’s script and storytelling which brings to life the multiple places and times of his show. His movements across the stage are clearly intentional, never frantically trying to fill the space, he commands the stage with deliberate physicality. Whilst also minimalistic, the well-timed visual tech plays a crucial role in these transitions, with short-sharp lighting transporting him between scenes. As the bright lights wash over his face, we see Maddigan transform himself, his posture shifting from being drunkenly sprawled across the chair in one instance, to being softly slouched in a therapist’s office in the next. A personal highlight was his portrayal of a party, where his grief bubbled over in his attempts to have his first kiss with a girl from his science class. The initial excitement, turning to shame, then sadness, is shown with gut-punching authenticity.

As the performance comes to an end, family recordings are projected onto the crumpled curtains, reminding us how intimate an experience this really is. Whilst his charismatic charm and confidence as a storyteller makes us feel at ease as an audience, it also reminds us how easy it is to look past the play’s central point – just how unspoken so many aspects of grief are, particularly among young men. Olives and Blowjobs is an impressive Fringe debut from a writer, director, and performer who, whilst younger than most of his audience, no doubt left us all contemplating life and grief in a new light.

Olives and Blowjobs is performing at The SpaceTriplex ‘Studio’, Aug 22-27.

Image courtesy of Bobby Stallwood, provided to The Student as a press image.