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Baby Reindeer review: This twisty and complex drama centered around a real-life stalking case is something very special

Baby Reindeer review: This twisty and complex drama centered around a real-life stalking case is something very special

The Edinburgh Festival is a strange place. It's a place where you can cry over dramatic ineptitude in one show, and cry tears of emotional resonance in the next. A place where you're just as likely to laugh out of awkward confusion as you are to let out a hearty belly laugh. In short, some of the shows performed during the Fringe Festival are good, and some are complete rubbish. So, when someone gets a transfer to the West End, albeit curtailed due to Covid, followed by a Netflix adaptation, you know it's special. This is the case for Richard Judd Reindeer baby.

Donnie (Gad) is also a moderately successful bartender and a somewhat unsuccessful comedian. One night, a woman walks into his pub in Camden crying and Donnie offers her a cup of tea on the house. Thus begins the story of Donnie and his pursuit of Martha (Jessica Gunning). “You're quite angry, aren't you?” He tells her affectionately. But it soon becomes clear that Martha's madness is not entirely benign. Waves of strange and often explicit emails are followed by more aggressive and intrusive forays into Donnie's private life. What starts with a cup of tea ends in a campaign of harassment that lasts for several years, pushing Donnie to the brink.

Funny stuff, right? but Reindeer babyDespite its origins in the world of stand-up comedy and its listing on Netflix as “offbeat,” it's not just a quirky look at London's comedy scene. Rather, it is a descent into the blackness of abuse and the remains of trauma. Donnie asks himself: “If you're not living a life worth living, can anyone ever ruin it?” For Gad, who turned his show to the screen and cast himself in the lead role, it's a deeply personal story — and a true one. A stalker, like Martha, sent 41,000 emails to Jade over three years. Let me do the math for you: That's 37 emails per day (a pace that not even Groupon can keep up with).

Reindeer baby It is a profound testimony to the psychological torment that Jad experienced. Dealing with Martha's arrival into his life forces Donnie to confront the sexual assault that occurred on the comedy circuit and broader questions about his sexuality and his place in the world. “We're all weird to varying degrees, aren't we?” Terry (Nava Mau) has her eye on the woman he's dating. “Pretending to be a human.” This is the question that bothers Dhoni and the audience. Is he a nice guy offering a cup of tea to a stranger in need, or is he a lying, manipulative user? The answers don't seem clear. Gunning's performance as Martha adds another layer of mystery: sometimes sinister, sometimes vulnerable, but always a compelling presence in his life and on screen.

The show is almost full of ideas. Among the most interesting is his relationship with Terry, a trans woman, in which he feels shame, which leads to him lying to her about his name and job, and only taking her to hidden hotel bars. Dealing with the complexity of these feelings is the kind of premise that could be an entire show in itself, as is the generational impact of sexual abuse (the Gadd/Donnie family are Scottish Catholics). but Reindeer babyThe central, most creative question is the question of interdependence. Will Donnie allow Martha's obsession to fester because of desire? Somebody? “I had a convicted stalker following me,” he repeats, like a mantra, after discovering that Martha had previously been imprisoned for stalking. “I“He confirmed.

In an interview I happened to see, conducted before Reindeer babyAfter its theatrical transfer to London, Gad remarked that it was “a show I find very difficult to do”. “But it's going to the West End and I couldn't be happier,” he added. This is stress. At Donnie's early concerts, where he routinely bombed, Martha would laugh like a cesspool and suddenly the audience was with him. Now that story – The Years of Terrorism – has landed Gad a seven-part series on Netflix. In his despair of not standing up and being left behind, did he encourage Martha?

Gad plays Donnie in the movie Baby Reindeer (Netflix)

Far from being a point of ignorance, that's something Reindeer baby It reflects on him. Donnie is brittle and completely unlikable, while the writing largely eschews laughs in favor of beats that oscillate between psychological suspense and anti-cuisine drama. But even if Martha calls him “little reindeer” and acts like he's a wide-eyed slob in the big city, neither Donny nor his creator is innocent. This is twisted, mature, self-questioning stuff that will make you more disturbed than it will titillate you.

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