by Philip Ridley.

Southwark Playhouse Shipwright Yard corner of Tooley St and Bermondsey St SE1 2TF To 14 May 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm also Fri & Sat 9.45pm.
Runs 1hr 35min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 May.

Less battle of the sexes, than sexual nuclear war aimed at mutually-assured survival.
Either vibrant or grating (but never gratuitous) the young man and woman sitting like adversaries, more distant than two batsmen, bowl verbal violence at each other. His body lounges open, ready to lunge maybe, she’s watchful, defiant, ready to repel. No locality – there’s talk of a beach, but also East London places – no names, and only plain, simple clothes. Nothing to identify them as anything except people whose passion has taken them to a point where violence and mutilation alone express intense feeling.

Language lacerates, a physical weapon in a battle of sexual desire which also impels bodies like bullets, making the marital wrestling-match of Claire Luckham’s Trafford Tanzi seem like a social gathering. These are young bodies oestrogened and testosteroned into missiles, the vehemence of words trying to match the tiger-fury of feeling.

Where, who doesn’t matter – desire has blotted out any landscape except its own need to find adequate expression. It’s unfortunate Philip Ridley has to use specific images – they risk drawing attention to their extremity and artifice (as his title does to its oxymoronic cleverness) in building over an animal language of shrieks, yelps and monosyllables.

Then, slowly, amidst apparently relentless vehemence, fragments of an exterior world are sighted in the speech. The outlines clear enough to recognise that both refer to a party. As detail emerges, it’s probably the same party, one being an organiser, the other a guest.

By now the two have narrowed their vociferous distance, coming together in the centre. Like ruthless spinning tops who’ve swirled and leapt around each other, they gradually pacify into occupants of a real world, speaking lower and slower as their separate speech-tracks trace back to their first meeting. Here there’s tenderness, without a whiff of napalm.

Including an embrace and tender kiss. But we’ve seen where that leads, from the moment tenderness is shot-through with urgency. But if you’ve begun with your conclusion, how do you end? Ridley’s mirror-image answer seems a bit too dramatically convenient. But the fiery performances in David Mercatali’s production carry – indeed, project – conviction. At weekends they do it twice-nightly. What stamina.

Cast: Jack Gordon, Vinette Robinson.

Director: David Mercatali.

2011-05-09 16:23:35

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