Camden Fringe 2017
“Schoolboy Superbrain Arthur was destined for great things until a violent encounter kicked his world off its axis. 25 years later, overthinking and catastrophizing are die hard companions. It’s an exhausting existence. When a second blow rocks him to his core, Arthur makes a vow to seek revenge for the trauma he suffered. After all, he now has nothing left to lose. Apart from his sanity.
This brand new show by Richard Fry (Bully, Smiler, Unbeatable Hearts) is about the people who get lost along the way and the lengths they will go to find themselves again.”
According to Arthur, Richard Fry’s anti-hero in his newest work, Ex Child Genius, if you wait long enough, eventually a plan will come together. A thirty year wait is not procrastination, it’s patience. Ex Child Genius deliciously satisfies our love for karmic justice however long it takes and by whatever means possible.
Arthur’s life has never been easy. The problem is he’s smart… very smart, learning everything there is to learn by the age of six. He absorbs art, history, math and science becoming a boy who is over sensitized to the world, able to hear his own heartbeat. His single mother, with her own set of issues, falls through the cracks of the social system, leaving Arthur with severe psychological damage. Desperately, he begins a search for his long-lost father, seen only in an old photograph. As a rebellious youth, Arthur runs afoul of the law and is sent to Art Therapy to help him reform. Now, years later, the plan he was waiting for finally comes into focus.
The storyline is teased out in tantalizing fashion. Disconnected events are tied together with simplicity and aplomb. Fry’s unassuming delivery style is at times hypnotic, only to upend expectations by one unforeseen plot twist after another. Dressed in red coveralls, using minimal props, Fry addresses the audience directly as though confessing his secrets to a close friend with a nudge and wink. Fry’s previous work has dealt with social outsiders and their effort to fit into the modern word. Ex Child Genius takes different path as Arthur makes his own rules and forces the modern world fit his life.
We find ourselves pulling for this unconventional underdog and his fight for personal justice. Arthur may not be the most sympathetic character you’ve ever met but truth be told, he was dealt a tough hand. What choices might we have made when faced with Arthur’s circumstances?
Director Sarah Berger keeps the pace of the show sharp and focused, allowing the story to unfold steadily right up to the ironically satisfying ending. Coming in just under 60 minutes, there is little fat to trim. Fry and Berger lead us deftly through the intricate story, rewarding the audience with unanticipated insight into human nature that is neither neat nor pretty. But as any Ex Child Genius will tell you, think long enough about this show and everything makes perfect sense.