When between jobs and working in a pub one day, Richard Gadd never expected one kind action he made as a barman to lead to such an extensive series of events. Martha was this kooky enigma who appeared as initially harmless, but quickly became a huge problem, following Gadd everywhere – turning up at his gigs and house, attacking his girlfriend and harassing his friends.
Baby Reindeer documents the three-year journey he took to convince the police that she was stalking him, as he tried to prove that this woman was a serious threat. As well as highlighting the dangers of this whole situation, the piece also investigates a failed judicial system, looking at how a lack of resources – and perhaps care from certain individuals – can negatively impact the quality of a person’s life.
Directed by Jon Brittain and written/performed by Gadd himself, the play exudes authenticity, and for the entire 70-minutes you’re totally wrapped up in the action. Trusting in his natural funny bones, Gadd weaves in comedy amongst the heartache, which adds some light relief. The story sucks you in – as an audience you lean closer at each minute, hanging on to every word and story beat. The play is totally thrilling, but simultaneously it’s rather unnerving to watch.
Now, after 41071 emails, 50 hours of voicemail, 744 tweets, 46 Facebook messages, three fake Facebook accounts, 106 pages of letters, some sleeping pills, a woolly hat, a pair of new boxer shorts and a baby reindeer toy, things seem to be moving a tad in the right direction. A restraining order has been awarded, meaning Martha cannot make any direct contact with Gadd, or she will go to prison. However, this doesn’t mean that he no longer gets phone calls every day from unknown numbers. It also doesn’t mean that his parents don’t get aggressive phone calls rung into their office constantly. Martha is still very much a part of his life, although her presence is now a bit more manageable.
It’s not often you see a piece of theatre that is so honest at its core. The filter is well and truly off; Gadd doesn’t paint himself as the hero in this story – he is fully aware of his flaws and acknowledges his mistakes. He speaks about how he shouldn’t have initially led the woman on; how his lad-like actions caused serious consequences for both him and his wider circle. This kind of openness is refreshing.
But in the Q+A afterwards, Gadd speaks about that first cup of tea, saying he wouldn’t have done that moment differently. Despite believing that Martha was unwell, he said that – in lonely London especially – it’s important to be nice to strangers and offer an arm to those that need it. The bravery and empathy shown from this one man is inspiring to say the least. 5/5
Reviewed by Charlie Wilks.
Baby Reindeer is currently showing until Saturday 9th November 2019 at The Bush Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here..