(Seen at the afternoon performance on 7th June 2018). Grace Smart's
detailed and atmospheric mobile home (right down to the insulation spilling from
the ceiling and boots on the wires above) spills into the auditorium and
provides the perfect backdrop for this tale of near-incestuous murder and
Sharla Smith (Neve McIntosh) and husband Ansel (Steffan Rhodri) live with
Ansel's simple 20 year old daughter Dottie (Sophie Cookson). Estranged son Chris
(Adam Gillen) boomerangs home after a relationship breakdown and a crazy plan to
kill Ansel's ex-wife for the insurance brings Joe Cooper (Orlando Bloom) into
the home, too. A lack of cash puts Copper in Dottie's bed, and there are further
twists as the conspiracy shatters.
Trouble is, the final scenes don't really reward the attention required for
the earlier ones. Movie style dramatic drumbeat music (Edward Lewis) underlines
the failure of the writing at that point, rather than amplifying the tension.
When the music outshines the text, it's a problem.
Prior to that, it's almost the exact flipside of the wonderful "Out There On
Fried Meat Ridge Rd." that played the Studio 2 in the same venue around this
time last year. Whereas Ridge had a cautious intelligent optimism, this has a
bunch of abrasive survivors pitting their limited wits against the world from
Fortunately, the performances are universally good, and director Simon Evans
gets the most out of each. Bloom is never short of controlling menace, with a
sadistic streak ready to manipulate the situation still further. His humiliation
of Dottie is a key scene, Cookson handling it with bewilderment, as well she
might. Her stage presence otherwise is ethereal, yet studied and has nuance
worth viewing close up.
Equally detailed, Steffan Rhodri's impressive study of a working man
struggling with life as much as relationships is utterly compelling -
particularly in the second act as he faces defeat once again. As his wife, Neve
McIntosh has a far smaller role than the others, but is indelible in her
portrayal of a survivor unsure of just why she stays in the situation.
Brother Chris has Gillen face challengingly technical acting scenes, in which
behaviours are modified and must be made to relate to earlier and future
character developments. That he does it and remains credible is a notable
Sadly, the play itself isn't nearly as strong as cast nor set, petering out
long before the end of the second half as it runs out of ideas and substitutes
the physical for intellectual shortcomings. Still, as a
chance to see one "big" name and several outstanding actors who are headed that
direction, it's worth considering.