Proper Adult – Altrincham Garrick (GM Fringe 2021)

Watching Megan Relph’s one-woman comedy Proper Adult provided a refreshing reminder about exactly why I started blogging about theatre in the first place. The purpose of my theatre blog is to spread the word that high quality theatre can be found outside London, plus it doesn’t have to cost an absolute fortune. In fact, you can watch something truly remarkable in a local venue for the same price as a starter plate of Sesame Chicken Wings in TGI Fridays.

Discovering emerging local artists is always delightful, and Megan Relph is undoubtedly one of the most talented performers and writers that I have encountered. I’m quite frankly astounded that Proper Adult is Relph’s debut as a playwright because it is a sublime play; perfectly paced, brilliantly performed, and is packed with fantastically funny comedy.

Megan Relph Proper Adult Altrincham Garrick GM Fringe Manchester Theatre Review
Megan Relph in Proper Adult. Picture credit – Mark Russell.

Having just turned 18, Relph’s character, Rachel is a proper adult now. Having recently joined the career ladder with her first job as a waitress in TGI Fridays, she is at the turning point in life. Rachel must put her childish ways aside to become a serious adult. The world is her oyster, but sadly, they don’t appear to be on the menu at TGIs.

As the audience enter the theatre, Rachel is sat at a restaurant table. She looks despondent and bored as she grazes on a bowl of crisps, constantly checking her phone for the time. When the audience has taken their seats, Rachel’s lunch break is over and in true TGI Fridays fashion, she instantly becomes chipper and happy-go-lucky. Breaking the fourth wall, Relph’s Rachel treats the audience as if we were customers at TGI Fridays. With a friendly persona, she becomes our host for the evening, cordially inviting the audience to experience what her life is typically like.

In contrast to Relph’s creative skill as a performer, impressively holding the stage alone and keeping the audience engaged throughout Proper Adult, Rachel is terrible at her job. Forgetting the menu, getting drinks orders wrong, and shamelessly drinking the leftovers, she is an awful waitress.

Relph skilfully plays multiple roles as she brings Rachel’s horrid customers to life, displaying her comedic dexterity as Rachel is pushed to the limit by her customers. From having to sing TGI’s infamous ‘happy birthday’ song, to dealing with pretentious customers, as well as pervy men calling her ‘darling’, Relph also effectively shows how undervalued and underpaid restaurant staff are.

Megan Relph Proper Adult Altrincham Garrick GM Fringe Manchester Theatre Review
Megan Relph in Proper Adult. Picture credit – Mark Russell.

Juxtaposed with these are short, amusing scenes of childish fun, as Rachel plays games with her younger brother, Bobby. Delightfully imaginative games that sadly have no place in adulthood. From being a secret agent to playing pirates, these scenes are deftly directed by Parissa Zamanpour, as Relph climbs over the tables and chairs that were in TGI Fridays. In Rachel and Bobby’s game, they have now become stepping stones, and Rachel must traverse them or risk falling into a pool of lava. It’s childish fun that prompts the audience to mourn our own loss of imagination and fun when we became adults.

Alongside Relph’s play brilliantly depicting the transition of becoming a ‘proper adult’, I hugely enjoyed its exploration of the relationship between Rachel and her mother. Again, both characters were played by Relph. It struck me as incredibly endearing, but also held some of the play’s best comedy. It instantly reminded me of the mother-daughter relationship in the film, Easy A. Given that I absolutely adore this film, comparing Relph’s style of comedy with Easy A is certainly not a criticism!

In fact, the only criticism that I have of Proper Adult is that it is too short. It’s a delicious meal, but it left me wanting to ask for the dessert menu and ordering more. I would love to see this piece developed more into a full-length 60 minute fringe play and have a longer run at its venue. Although, in just over thirty minutes, Relph still remarkably managed to deliver a hilarious, expertly crafted comedy.

The play’s tone shifts dramatically to provide an affecting ending, which is made all the more impactful by the incredibly funny joke proceeding it. I was still laughing at it when, seemingly coming out of nowhere, Proper Adult delivered an emotional blow that left me gobsmacked and in awe at how talented Megan Relph is.

What an astonishing debut as a writer! If I was wearing a hat, I would tip it to her.

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