The Fetch Wilson takes place in a room with a black floor, red lighting and giant playing cards hanging from the ceiling. Its foreboding and grim, so it perfectly sets the mood for a play set predominantly on the seedier side of the street. It’s ambitious to claim Chuck Palahniuk as a central influence— his grit, wry humour and unique voice are nigh inimitable. I’m initially impressed though; The Fetch Wilson features just one actor, who strides onto stage in boxer shorts and an inner tube, while somehow preserving the atmosphere and crackling tension already festering in the room. He’s funny, intimidating and very Irish, making the play’s setting immediately apparent. The story opens with a little diatribe about the narrator’s parents and their rocky relationship—already very Palahniuk. By the time we arrive at our (anti)hero’s school days, there is an element of Dostoyevsky’s The Double at play. While this does serve to bolster the dark, gritty elements of the story, I can’t help the suspicion that I have some idea where this might be going... more on this later.
The Fetch Wilson does character and setting very well. There’s a host of other people speaking from the mind of the one actor, ranging from scummy to not so scummy. Watching this unfold makes for a gripping spectacle, as does the seedy imagery of Dublin back-alleys, dilapidated houses in bad parts of town and cityscapes beneath grey Czech skies. It’s world-building is solid and honestly makes for a believable story. The acting is also great; consistent micro-gesture and a direct incorporation of the set coupled with florid dialogue and the odd philosophical comment provides us with a complex main character to pick apart as the play unfolds. This term “pick apart,” is operative here, and is where my main gripe with The Fetch Wilson lies...
...to claim Chuck Palahniuk as an influence is ambitious, as I pointed out earlier. His singular presence on the literary scene is unquestionable and testaments to his influence on your work are always made risky by the threat of imitation. The Fetch Wilson had me a little nervous as soon as its main character remarked “I wanted to feel like I had something important to say.” The crisis of autonomy that this line highlights is a staple of Palahniuk’s Fight Club, as is quasi-homoerotic fascination with one’s more beautiful peers, dark charisma and a lust for danger. These are all elements of The Fetch Wilson that served to gradually worry me more and more.
I won’t spoil any major plot details, but readers of The Double and Palahniuk’s work might have an inkling of why I feel the culmination of The Fetch Wilson’s plot detracts slightly from the solid aesthetic presentation of the piece. This aside, the dialogue is well formed and the characterisation is incredibly lucid, and this clarity of vision is done real justice by the work of its solitary actor. For an engaging character study and a dive into a very dingy, very dark rabbit hole, I’d recommend catching The Fetch Wilson at 11:30 from the 5th-13th and then again from 15th-27th in the Pleasance Attic, Fringe venue 33.