THE BITING POINT
by Sharon Clark.
Theatre 503 above The Latchmere Pub 503 Battersea Park Road SW11 3BW To 12 March 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Sun 5pm.
Rune 1hr 25min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7978 7040.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 February.
Interwoven personal and political clashes freshly imagined.
There can rarely, if ever, have been a play where ultimate revelations are so entirely expressed through costume. Each of the male/female relationships: between Malcolm and his sister Wendy, whom he protects from insults about her mental state at the same time she’s driving him to violent distraction, Dennis and the younger Anna, who seem to hate each other while being bound by physical passion, and Ruth, whose scenes are soliloquies of frustration, end with information about one or both characters provided by a garment.
Only Linda is excepted. But Malcolm’s girlfriend is mainly there to highlight his dedication to Wendy. And while Wendy’s rig doesn’t make such a crucial point, her change to a flowing dress and excessive make-up reflects her inability to consider what is appropriate, alongside an inability to think beyond her own immediate gratification. Malcolm’s eventual ‘lesson’ to her is cruel but understandable, as she’s destroying his chances in life.
That includes Linda’s departure, which doesn’t reflects well on her. Given the way she and Malcolm met that could be no surprise. But playwright Sharon Clark, who specifically wanted to write about the early 1980s, and builds to a clash between Anti-Nazi League and National Front, doesn’t follow the most obvious paths. Shown a long-suffering, if angry young man caring for a mentally disabled sister and one with a penchant for bedding teenage girls, which would you suppose was on the Left and which on the Right?
The men’s political affiliation is kept blurred, if it’s not entirely surprising – in one case especially – when the T-shirts are donned. But the identity of Ruth, and the way she behaves at the final clash, is a surprise in the context of this drama.
Lizzie Roper gives Ruth’s monologues a technically sure-footed detail. Both the men are played with understanding, especially Charlie Hollway’s Malcolm, bent tight in frustration at Wendy’s behaviour. And the glory of Dan Coleman’s production is Sarah Hoare’s Wendy; delightfully happy when pleased, repentant when rebuked, skilfully manipulative and utterly unable to see why she shouldn’t do what she wants, regardless of instructions or promises.
Dennis: Gyun Sarossy.
Malcolm: Charlie Hollway.
Wendy: Sarah Hoare.
Anna: Jessica Barker-Wren.
Ruth: Lizzie Roper.
Linda: Victoria Bavister.
Director: Dan Coleman.
Designer: Mark Friend.
Lighting: Will Reynolds.
Sound: Tom Hackley.
Assistant director: Helen Broughton.