What’s pleasing about Rob Hayes’ Awkward Conversations is that the bestiality aspect doesn’t feel like merely a vehicle to explain loneliness and toxic masculinity – it has too much of a starring role – nor is it all there is to this one-hander. Bobby (Linus Karp) delivers five monologues. The first four take place following sexual encounters with animals, the final one just before he attempts sex with a bear. So, it’s pretty prevalent, but interspersed with anecdotes of his father’s disappointment in him.
Hayes stops things getting boring by varying the tone of the monologues. The opening – which can be referred to as ‘dog’ – is a familiar morning-after engagement in which Bobby tries to make small talk, worries about offending his four-legged companion, doesn’t want to appear clingy at the same time as not wishing them to leave. He is more flirtatious in ‘cat’ and rather confrontational in ‘monkey’. For me the most impressive segment is ‘goat’, where Bobby re-enacts at length the moment he walked out of his job as part of the monologue. Again, Hayes switches things up, taking us beyond the realms of his protagonist just talking to his sexual partner.
The father-son relationship is touched on regularly, most poignantly at the end when – fleeing the police – Bobby revisits the woodland he once camped in with his dad. He recalls how he wanted to catch fish for the pair of them to eat, be the provider of dinner for the night, but it doesn’t work out. Fitting an animal should feature in the tale. Karp goes on to emotionally (though with very good control) detail the breaking up of Bobby’s family; a split, remarriage, the births of half-siblings.
The actor portrays a Bobby you can’t help feeling for, and shows himself more than capable as a comic actor – perfectly executing lines like ‘I would install a cat-flap but I’m not a slut.’ His character is more relatable than you might expect. Yes, his sex is with animals. But the delusion that follows – plans of running away together, going into business together, the belief that one night of intercourse could mean a lifetime of happiness – is quite human.
Photography © Dave Bird