by Andrew Sheridan.

Royal Exchange Studio St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 19 February.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm Mat Thu 2.30pm Sat 4pm.
TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.

then Soho Theatre 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE 23 February-12 March 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 3, 5, 10, 12 March 3pm.
Audio-described 2 March.
Captioned 9 March.
TICKETS: 020 7478 0100.

Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 February.

Like Howard Barker, but without the laughs.
There s one group of people for whom Andrew Sheridan’s new play will bring a huge sigh of relief. Those who look fearfully to the time when Howard Barker will run out of things to say (however unlikely that is) can be assured that here is a new writer capable of as remorseless a tirade of verbal and physical nastiness.

Here is sickening detail – friendship indicated by sharing a plaster from an open wound, actual vomit (needless to say), calmly-spoken hate, overt violence and sexual threat. No-one likes anyone, and language that would lead to censure if not arrest anywhere else these days flows freely, if not gratuitously.

Theatre’s not for moral lectures, but some viewpoint about human or social relations generally helps. And as time grinds on in the womb-like polythene tunnel of a rubbish-tip where designer Amanda Stoodley has placed Sheridan’s dark play, as hate and violence scent the festering atmosphere, strangely this is what emerges.

Though Harry McEntire is too big to seem a ten-year old, his Oscar demonstrates childhood directness. And provokes them, for example from Paul Copley as the grandfather who’s never been able to like him, whose marriage is deadly and whose sexuality has been denied through his life.

Using his grandmother’s ashes as hostage, what Oscar demands isn’t love but truth. Among a fine cast, sustaining in Sarah Frankcom’s production a style where emotions are suppressed under the surface while remaining as evident as subcutaneous swellings, McEntire’s enquiring frankness defines the space where love should be by the scars of its absence.

Gratuitous cruelty is easy to write, given a certain fundamental facility, and soon monotonous in its selfish remorselessness. The apocalyptic ambiguity and temporal dysjunctions here are offputting too. More rewarding is the question of whether the opening scene’s noises off are guns or fireworks; the final scene suggests both, but the ultimate impression is downbeat.

Sheridan impressively evokes emotional isolation in a world where family and casual relations are abusive or abrasive. But relentless negativity along the way might seem indulgence to millions for whom basic survival is the immediate problem.

Helen/Girl: Rebecca Callard.
John: Paul Copley.
Boy/Oscar: Harry McEntire.
Malcolm/Neil/Philip: Laurence Mitchell.
Jean: Gabrielle Reidy.

Director: Sarah Frankcom.
Designer: Amanda Stoodley.
Lighting: Richard Owen.
Sound: Peter rice.
Dialects: Joe Windley.
Fights: Kate Waters.
Assistant director: Andy Rogers.

2011-02-07 02:43:37

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