Charlie has decided to be positive today. He’s got issues with his body. His best friend and housemate has followed her boyfriend to Sydney. And the gay dating scene has gotten him down. And he’s a vegan, which is a good thing, right? But even that makes dating harder. He’d rather not even sleep with meat-eaters, if he can arrange it.
Charlie works in hospitality. He’s a trained pastry chef but he’s decided he just wants to wait tables for now. After the long years of pandemic lockdowns, he’s happy to be back out in the world, though his ability to concentrate is gone and, besides, the world of social media and Grindr and dating and adulting aren’t conducive to long-term commitment of any kind.
Of course, the day he decides to look on the bright side, things start to go wrong. Bib, one of his fish dies. Then he locks himself out of his house, which he can’t deal with right away because he has to go to a dentist appointment across town. And then he realises he’s not been paid yet, so can he even afford to pay the locksmith?
Protein is a wild ride, both hilarious and poignant, as Charlie struggles to deal with the torrent of problems that happen to him over twenty-four hours, as well as dealing with the ongoing problems of his life – men ghosting him, losing touch with his bestie, not fulfilling his professional dreams and dealing with parents who are just doggedly trying to help him.
Darby James’ script packs in a lot of trials and trauma into the story of Charlie and it whips around tonally, which keeps the audience leaning forward and laughing, but doesn’t always allow the drama to land. Some of the final scenes suggest that Charlie doesn’t have it so bad, even though we’ve seen deep into his psyche and he definitely has some troubles to work through.
Performer Will Hall is dynamic on stage and never flags in the fast-paced 60-minute show. His physicality helps keep the humour flowing, even in moments that are clearly uncomfortable for Charlie and for us watching.
The character of Charlie is really inventive in how he tries to solve his problems or delay the inevitable. It is always great fun to see a character zig left when you expect him to zag right. The avalanche of bad luck is entertaining enough. But with some of the complex topics the show addresses (toxic positivity, body image issues, self-loathing), some of it feels a bit too breezy. A little more dramatic weight could have given the show a more satisfying resolution.
- Keith Gow, Theatre First