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FringeReview UK 2024


Make It Beautiful in association with Park Theatre

Genre: Contemporary, Drama, Mainstream Theatre, New Writing, Short Plays, Theatre

Venue: Park Theatre


Low Down

Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson and Felix Grainger’s Sniff, acted by them and (briefly) ‘Bloke’, director Ben Purkiss, plays at Park Theatre till May 25th.



Written by Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson and Felix Grainger, Directed by Ben Purkiss, Props and Lighting Make It Beautiful

Till May 25th


“Are you tired of work? Are you tired of life?” All gambling ad jingles possess an avatar somewhere, someone who voices those words.

And avatar Alex whose gambling ad pitch this is, is in a pub urinal in a small city with his girlfriend arriving. And he’s going to propose. That’s after he manages to piss.

So why does he stay in that urinal for the next hour And why does loser local Liam declare he knows him? Then offer coke? Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson and Felix Grainger’s Sniff, acted by them and (briefly) ‘Bloke’, director Ben Purkiss, plays at Park Theatre till May 25th.

An uncredited gestural set in white blocks from their Make It Beautiful company is accompanied by pub music and a haunted few silences. Bleakly suggestive, it builds to a shocker, but not the one you’d expect.

Truculent, hovering, dangerous Liam (Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson) permanently pushes the conversation as well-groomed dapper Alex (Felix Grainger) with his cravate (people wear those?) testily indulges Liam his spiel, if not his declaration of previous acquaintance at school, even his sales pitch. And Liam challenges Alex to show his pitching chops. Why?

It’s a tribute to the writing that when you think it can’t credibly develop it manages to. “You think I want to chat to you?” Alex turns on Liam at one point. “You’re the one still in this toilet” Liam counters.

Coming in at nearly 10 minutes less than its billed time of 70 minutes, it moves swiftly, both actors taking flashback roles to fathers or in one case a grandfather of the other protagonist. Each memory, whether on cocaine of unconsciousness reveals how the lives of each fork out to different trains. But lead here.

At one early point Purkiss arrives as unnamed ‘Bloke’ to whom Liam whispers to the man’s mute amusement, then leaves. Otherwise they’re on their own.

This play’s a paean to lost youth, (pitch)forked directions, sliding door moments. Not directly, as decisions and life-chances are mapped by who your parents are, as we find out. But for a brief simmering youth all dreams seem equal. Then money, education and hairstyles wake us, and we drown.

Liam’s smart, but he’s lost out somehow. He had a clever uni friend, John. What happened? And his relationship with his family broke down over a compulsion he had, and just when he was recovering, something pushed him back.

Alex had wanted to work for the climate, but his father works in very different ways: he’s too present, as Liam’s father’s too absent. If Alex has been pushed into being a nepo-baby there was an idealist Alex down who hates his ad job, has scruples about a boy of 13 dying.

His father gives a blistering capitalist speech at the heart of Alex’s choices: “A kid died. Kids die all the time. Move on. I’m sure a few kids have died putting up those solar panels…Your mother and I didn’t spends thousands of pounds on you tuition for you to go prancing about in the desert. Show me that you are actually built for this world.”

Alex wanted so much better but his father’s adamant: he has connections.

Liam’s dazzled by Alex’s pitches. Except one: Alex’s scripted marriage proposal. Liam’s right – anyone would run from this soulless ad-declaration. Liam can help. But there’s twists. Several. Mind what you dream of, especially when you’re out cold.

The plot-twists verge on the incredible in one last detail, but the rest is absolutely authentic, arising out of the two characters. Liam’s beautifully drawn as one who veils profound intelligence and strategy. Yet if he knew Alex’s backstory, and Alex Liam’s, would they connect differently? Or have both have damaged themselves into an inexorable course?

As the plot circle to its denouement, you wonder at all the Liams and Alexes who arc away from the summer teens, then sometimes find themselves set back to collide. Not all unseen hands are those of the market. Riveting.