Waiting for Gary is a new comedy written by Katie Sayer and directed by Agnes Pethers, who both won the OUDS New Writing Festival 2018 with The C Bomb. With more than just a catchy title in common, audiences familiar with The C Bomb will recognise that same style of contemporary comedy with a feminist twist, which is hopefully becoming a trademark of Katie’s writing.
Anya and Chris (Dorothy McDowell and Tom Fisher respectively) are a divorced couple, reunited outside the maternity ward when their daughter goes into labour. Through their dialogue, Waiting for Gary discusses the sacrifices women are expected to make for their families, and raises a number of related issues: infidelity, unplanned pregnancy, pornography, social appearance anxiety, and online dating. If that makes Waiting for Gary sound heavy-handed or condescending, nothing could be further from the truth. The framework of the long-divorced couple’s unexpected reunion sees them navigate the pitfalls of civil conversation, let slip that they’ve looked the other up on social media, and ask about the other’s relationship history: it is perfect for allowing such discussions in a light-hearted context.
Waiting for Gary is as ambitious a concept as it is interesting, with only two characters on stage for the majority of the play. The staging works extremely well, as the intimate setting of the Burton Taylor Studio is transformed into the hospital waiting room. The actors – including a brief but brilliant appearance from the doctor (Manish Binukrishnan) – interact with the audience to great effect. Dorothy McDowell and Tom Fisher maintain their characters throughout (the latter is actually already on stage when the audience arrive) and have the necessary confidence to remain completely in control of the action.
The movements incorporated into the dialogue help to keep the audience engaged without disrupting the plot, and have obviously been well thought-out and rehearsed. Nonetheless, there were inevitably moments when the action dragged slightly, and the audience’s attention drifted. Waiting for Gary feels like it could really something excellent, with a little more fine-tuning. As it stands, it’s a perfectly enjoyable and entertaining play, and, once the story gets going, the fifty minutes soon fly by.
Waiting for Gary is funny, relevant, and bittersweet, and I look forward to what Katie Sayer will write next.