Bash: Latterday Plays at Trafalgar Studios
Neil LaBute’s grim trilogy of one-act plays got him “disfellowshipped” (one step below excommunication) from the Mormon church. This production, a revival of a run at the Old Red Lion, makes it easy to see why. It examines in close detail the everyday evils that humans can, and sometimes do perpetrate.
The performance is made up of two monologues with a duologue sandwiched in between, taking place on a stage cluttered with rickety chairs in various stages of sinking into the black floor. In Iphigenia in Orem a man, played apace by Philip Scott-Wallace, reveals to a stranger in a Vegas hotel room that the death of his infant daughter was not what everyone had assumed. Scott-Wallace is fast-talking, a little bit charming but mostly smarmy and increasingly creepy. His face breaks frequently and suddenly into a huge grin. The American accent does not hold entirely convincingly. The full speed of his delivery shows its strength when he describes the infant’s death: thick silence follows in the long pause.
The duologue A Gaggle of Saints has Tom Vallen and Dani Harrison as the recently engaged John and Sue. Encountering a gay couple in Central Park at night, John lets his feral side loose. Vallen begins as an earnest and boring jock, focusing on dull details in setting the scene – like the make of the car he drives. But as he describes in gruesome, sickening detail the way that his friend kicks in the nose of the gay man lying on the toilet floor he seems ecstatic and pumped full of adrenaline. It is disturbing, but a brilliant, riveting performance.
In case this was not dark enough, the third monologue is Medea Redux and, for anyone familiar with the Greek tragedy it is not difficult to work out what’s coming: more infanticide. Rebecca Hickey is a shy woman who started a relationship at the age of 13 with her teacher and became pregnant. The introverted way Hickey plays it is cleverly at odds with what the character is capable of.
Unintrusive direction by Jonathan O’Boyle lets the script speak for itself. LaBute spins intricate narratives, digressing frequently and suddenly jerking back to the original thread. These are intelligent and unrelenting updates on gruesome tales many, many centuries old.
Photos: Darren Bell
Bash: Latterday Plays is on at Trafalgar Studios until 7th June 2014, for further information or to book visit here.