Trafalgar Studios 2 has had its fair share of hits, with its recent production, Rotterdam, picking up an Olivier Award last month. Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Road is unlikely to repeat that success, but still offers a decent, if slight, 70 minutes of action.
It is set in a dingy motel room in Virginia, where uptight and highly strung factory worker Mitch takes up an offer to share a room with big friendly bear J.D. As well as the miserable room, he is also forced to endure a series of nightmare neighbours; a racist old codger, a New Jersey gangster and a meth addict.
Stevenson who wrote the play, plays JD; the protagonist and a highly likeable character. Slightly dim at times, he comes out with some of the play’s funniest lines. There is also an important message here about defying personal assumptions, as ‘redneck’ characters turn out to know far more than meets the eye.
Although he fluffed a few lines on press night, Stevenson puts in an excellent performance, creating a character engaging enough to keep the audience’s attention throughout. Likewise, Robert Moloney as Mitch is compelling as a nervous wreck who gradually discovers his voice and backbone.
However, the surrealism does occasionally grate, including a wholly unnecessary dance break that massively hampers the finale. The scenes between the warring couple Tommy and Marlene were shouty and one-dimensional; they are both overblown and thinly drawn characters, which wasted two excellent performers (including Alex Ferns, one of my favourite actors).
Production Designer Simon Scullion has created a wonderfully authentic set; giving a trailer park vibe from the moment you walk in. It unusual to see the studio’s normal ‘in the round’ space reconfigured; this seems like one production where the intimacy could have worked particularly well.
This is a sweet and heartwarming play, which although it has its fair share of flaws, will make you forget your troubles and offers an amusing, if undemanding, evening.