A shock title for a play can is usually a portent of unsatisfying things to come. It’s often as though the writer is over-compensating for a lack of substance within by packaging the piece in attention-robbing expletives.
Is this the case for Greg McLaren’s Doris Day Can F*ck Off? Perhaps not – it’s clear that much work has gone into McLaren’s one-man show midway through this year’s Pulse Fringe Festival. However, it’s not an easily digestible feast. Greg McLaren explores in this what would happen if every instance of communication with fellow humans were sung rather than spoken. The results, recorded over the space of a week and played over his live performance, are indeed fascinating in parts.
Greg McLaren is not without skill but his exploration of the complexities of communication seems to have been one that might have looked viable on paper but which, ultimately, fails to translate fully to the stage.
As Doris Day kicks off, within moments the oddly engaging McLaren is singing at the audience. And he continues to sing – or dip into a range of instruments – for the next hour. While always mildly entertaining, at times, the technology threatens to swamp the performance and, when your show is comprised of a loosely stitched patchwork of ideas, the moments of charm and brilliance can easily get lost under an avalanche of self-indulgence.
In saying that, there are indeed unexpected titbits of genuine delight. The man who performs an impromptu Asian love song, the mash-up of sampled traffic wardens that comprises the Car Park Song are competent enough. It’s just a show that never really gets going to a sustainable level.
True to form, attempts at audience participation feel flat and awkward. In the ultra-extrovert US, this kind of engagement goes down a storm but a small, unresponsive audience at a rural British fringe venue brings the attempt down to a painful crawl.
Doris Day Can F*ck off is not traditional theatre but rather performance art and should be viewed as such. However, it’s not a new piece, having already done the rounds as a work-in-progress this time last year. It’s quirky and broadly likeable but it still feels unfinished and it’s difficult to ascertain where McLaren would take it from here.
Whatever her perceived faults, Doris Day deserves a slightly more cohesive and substantial send-off.