Sunday, 14 March 2010


12/3/10, Bush

A memorable evening, not least because it features what must be the longest blow-job currently on the London stage. Another preview (after London Assurance on Monday). But maybe previews aren't so bad? This one was pretty slick (like London Ass), marred only by one moment of corpsing and another in which the actress's hair got tangled up with the actor's jacket button after that blow job.

Four young people, sharing flats and casual sex. Mark, the amazing Geoffrey Streatfeild who we saw as Henry V and in The Pains of Youth, is in marketing, owns his own place, is a serial seducer. He's a shit really, but Streatfeild makes him believable and even likeable to start with, despite his pink shirts, pale grey suit and thick pink tie.

Tim Muffin (John Cummins) is his overweight slob of a university friend, working in a burger bar since no-one will give him the job he craves as a "carer", a role he clearly fulfilled for his Nan, now dead of lung cancer, whose ashes he keeps in an urn shaped like a cartoon cat and which he can't bring himself to throw away. Mark keeps him around largely it seems to fetch his beers from the fridge when he gets home in the evening.

Rose (Sinead Matthews -- we saw her as Cassandra in Women of Troy at the National and as the child in The Wild Duck at the Donmar) is a dippy back-combed blonde wastrel with a husky voice, a string of creditors, silly spectacles and a belief in numerology and similar new agre nonsense. She and Mark have a brief fling, after which she becomes a bunny-boiler obsessive when he dumps her.

Cassie (Alison O'Donnell) is Rose's flatmate and landlady (Rose answered an ad on Gumtree, but never pays the rent), a feminist activist with a secret longing to be dominated by a man, something Mark discovers when he seduces her by pretending to be a feminist (even buying a T-shirt with the slogan, "This is what a feminist looks like".

The blow-job comes when Rose, desperate to get her man back and wearing a ridiculous flouncy strapless dress and a pair of enormous stilettoes bought with money the besotted Tim has stolen from the burger bar, persuades Tim to let her into their flat to "surprise" Mark, who is too weak or self-centred to resist and succumbs to temptation.

It all ends in bloody tears when the evidently unhinged Rose pokes her eyes out with one of the stilettoes, but she and Tim find true love in a scene in which Mark and Cassie also meet up again and he discovers she's pregnant.

All very modern, with lots of references to Facebook and Google as well as Gumtree, but then it's by Penelope Skinner, whose Fucked we saw in Edinburgh and who has a wonderfully acute eye and ear for the random, rootless, deeply unsatisfactory lives that some young folk live today.

S, whose observations are usually very acute on these occasions, said it had a very traditional structure and wonderfully conventional plot devices like secrets kept from one or some of the characters, unexpected arrivals etc. And it had an opening and closing monologue by Tim as he prepared finally to scatter his Nan's ashes on Eastbourne beach. At the end he asks for a sign from his Nan that she can hear him: we fade to black on his triumphant laugh when he discovers Cassie's cigarette butts in the urn (she's been told by Mark it's Tim's "ash tray"). S also claimed to hear Shakespearian echoes in much of the dialogue, though I only caught "a Rose by any other name" (Rose asks: "What would a rose by any other name smell of?").

Played on a traverse stage with four plastic chairs and minimal props; we came in to see Mark and Cassie sitting in the chairs as in a waiting room, with the distorted sounds of a busy hospital playing over the PA.

Streatfeild was a late casting. According to the web the part was to have been played by Laurence Fox, son of James, nephew of Edward and Mr Billie Piper, who now has a flourishing TV career (he was Kevin Whateley's sidekick in ITV's Lewis). Why did he drop out? Perhaps he thought the blow job scene wouldn't be good for his reputation.

Directed by Polly Findlay.

Eigengrau is defined as "the the colour seen by the eye in perfect darkness". I'm none the wiser.

We went with the Tall Physicist and M, his missis, who are charming people and seemed to enjoy it, though he professed to considerable embarrassment during the prolonged blowjob.

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