by Matt Hartley.

Soho Theatre (Upstairs) 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE To 25 May 2014.
Tue-Sun 7.15pm Mat Sat 2.45pm.
Runs 1hr No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7478 0100.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 May.

Sleek glimpse of urban paranoia.
Here’s a slice of urban paranoia, emanating from an area of London where no home comes at much under £400,000, but you expect to live in peace. Then a neighbour arrives, complaining about the bus-stop outside the house. And there are the youths hanging around the street.

For its opening scenes, Matt Hartley’s Microcosm of society seems a comic, if menacing story of the new home spoiled by a neighbour. Philip arrives bearing a bottle of wine and a torn-off wing-mirror from new arrival Alex’s car. Hartley suggests something unsettling about Philip; he’s intrusive, won’t go away, keeps calling round, seems to want Alex’s attention even when Clare, a doctor due to move in with Alex in a week’s time, arrives.

Is he malign, innocently inconvenient, or a joker unaware of the limits? We never really know, because after some time the play changes direction. Alex tells one of the speeding youths hanging around the neighbourhood to slow down, the whole gang of them target him, and Philip joins Clare, and the local police, in advice not to meddle with the youngsters on the street.

But he does and as the group become a gang, fired-up for revenge on him, Alex turns to fearful combat. Youths start banging on the windows, attacking his car, setting fire to his bin while he sets up cameras to catch them at it. It all has to turn out badly, and it does. His final reaction comes when Alex has severed himself from listening even to Clare, let alone the police, leave alone a now subdued Philip.

Between scenes Derek Bond’s coolly controlled production plays My Fair Lady’s ‘The Street Where You Live’, the tune increasingly distorted until it has disappeared as much as Alex and Clare’s life together here.

Four strong performances make points clearly while allowing space for characters’ unspoken thoughts; the police officer and Clare are both controlled and sensible, while the disappearance of Philip’s over-friendliness is paralleled by Alex’s mounting volatility.

James Perkins’ translucent set increases the sense of insubstantiality and vulnerability in this sleekly disturbing view of city life.

Police Officer: Christopher Brandon.
Philip: John Lightbody
Alex: Philip McGinley.
Clare: Jenny Rainsford.

Director: Derek Bond.
Designer: James Perkins.
Lighting: Sally Ferguson.
Sound: Jo Walker.

2014-05-13 13:16:22

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