Joseph Barnes Phillips launches into a monologue with gusto, transitioning between numerous characters in a portrayal of love and loss on a personal level. Big Foot, both written and performed by Phillips, has a down to earth, refreshing reality about it. But it also paints a beautiful picture of a young man trying to step up and be the responsible individual that society has too easily painted him to eschew.
The millennial generation is too often labelled as lazy, wanting the perfect job without putting in the effort and running away from any sense of mature action – life isn’t fair so let’s relinquish control and moan about it instead. Not so with Rayleigh. He finds the girl of his dreams and steps up to the be the partner she deserves; he takes care of his mother as her health starts to deteriorate; he grafts to be the worthy son that she has painstakingly brought him up to be.
Phillips nails the core essence in each of the characters he portrays. The transitions between Spice Girl (partner), Rayleigh and Moon Gazer (mum) are at times stunted, but slipping between physical transformations line after line is a tall order. Phillips’ script is personable and so it makes sense that he himself should play all the parts. Dominic Garfield focusses the attention on the power of Phillips’ storytelling to galvanise the relationship between all characters under one overall theme. It sits in clever contrast to Nik Corrall’s set, strewn with stuffed toys and play phones, the carefree childhood that Phillips leave behind as he takes on the titles of adult, carer, boyfriend and father.
Rayleigh embodies the internal conflicts that many young men today can relate to. He wants to be one of the guys, always partying and being perceived as a confident, cocky youth – it’s the naïve fashion of the time. But he also wants the tenderness of a family that he hasn’t been brought up in, a paternal influence that guides and supports him. Big Foot is an attempt at being all things to all people, the mantle of growing up and taking control of your life.
Phillips has an affable, bubbly personality that impresses and endears in equal measure. As two women become important in his life, their ancillary relationship reflects two individuals craving to be the centre of his attention. It can seem too crowded on stage, Phillips forced to run from one end to the other, attempting to convey the multitude of opinions that are thrown at him. But as an audience we witness his love for them both overcome any superficial differences.
Cultural traditions are celebrated and teased in a friendly manner; it’s comfortable, inviting and warming to witness. Big Foot shows an alternative perspective to that which pervades public opinion about the youth today. It ends too abruptly, feeling unfinished – as if with limited attention span Rayleigh has wandered off onto his next flight of fancy. But it’s got guts and heart; it’s emotional and mature; it doesn’t pretend that everything comes easy. The things worth fighting for never do.
Director: Dominic Garfield
Producer: Black Theatre Live and HighRise Theatre
Writer: Joseph Barnes Phillips
Design: Nik Corrall; Andy Grange (lighting); Max Pappenheim (sound)
Cast: Joseph Barnes Phillips
Big Foot tours the UK until 10 November 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.