by Anthony Neilson.
White Bear Theatre 138 Kennington Park Road SE11 4DJ To 17 October 2015.
Tue-Sat 7pm Mat Sun 4pm.
Runs 1hr 5min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7793 9193.
Review: William Russell 1 October.
Sexual practices and ill-fated relationships.
This is, as is almost inevitable with an Anthony Neilson play, an evening which shocks, sickens and grips the audience like a vice. Whether one enjoys the experience is up to the individual, but this revival of his 2002 play is very well-performed and director Pip Minnithorpe keeps the tension high in spite of it consisting of a series of short scenes which at first do not seem to follow from the previous one.
Stu (Adam Howden) and Abby (Sarah Harkins) are having a fight in their bedroom. They are in a relationship, she has discovered she is pregnant, he wonders whether it is his child, and things go from bad to worse.
Then we met a young man who has brought a student moonlighting as a tart back to his room. Or is it Stu and Abby at some earlier stage in their relationship? I have no idea.
It hardly matters as we switch from one variety of Stu and Abby to the other as the scenes fly by. The second couple also fight and each time we meet them his sexual demands get ever more extreme and explicit, while her responses head the same way.
The language is colourful to say the least, the sexual practices described revolting, but as an insight into a world of perverted, damaged and hopeless people there is no denying Neilson creates that world powerfully.
Howdon makes a splendidly appealing Stu, dim but butch, and a distinctly dodgy other Stu, whose apparent niceness is a sham, while Harkins is perverse, irritating and annoying as Abby and a dead-eyed student resigned to her fate, earning her way through college by selling her body, as the other Abby.
The battles of the sexes are riveting. The play was nominated for an ‘Evening Standard’ newcomer award when originally staged at the Royal Court and one can see why.
Stitching keeps one guessing just how far Neilson will go, although some of the answers provided are pretty hard to stomach. Unmissable? No. But worth catching all the same.
Stu: Adam Howden.
Abby: Sarah Harkins.
Director: Pip Minnithorpe.
Designer: Katie Scott.
Lighting: Jack Weir.
Sound: Chris Drohan.
Costume: Virginia Pablo Martinez.