Shoot / Get Treasure / Repeat and Eschara
Mark Ravenhill and Philip Whiteman
Union Theatre, Southwark
Review by Sacha Voit
Presenting an evening of six short plays, Cheekish Productions combine three pieces by playwright Mark Ravenhill with three works of new writing by their artistic director Philip Whiteman. Each scene explores the effects of war and terrorism, with Ravenhill's scathing insights into western behaviour highlighted by his dark comedy.
We begin with Ravenhill's Crime and Punishment, in which a Geordie soldier (Graeme John) interrogates a middle eastern woman, wanting seemingly for her to 'love' him, as he forces his culture on her. However, ultimately, he's the one holding the gun, and as she has begun to realise this is just another cycle of 'hell and devils', the scene disintegrates into violence.
In Paradise Lost, Liz, an air-headed air-hostess, has come downstairs to ask the occupant of the flat keep the night time noise down. The screams are disturbing her sleep, but she 'doesn't want to get involved'. However when two men with a bag full of torture instruments come to take charge of the otherwise silent Ruth, Liz finds herself shocked and protesting, before picking up a hammer herself.
Finally Fear and Misery shows us a middle class couple worry about waking their son whilst arguing over the 'blink of rape' that Olivia (Lindesay Mace) sees in Harry's eyes. Meanwhile Harry is obsessed with security and is thinking of moving the family to a gated community to keep them safe from the multi-cultural community that threatens their existence outside.
Rhiannon Newman Brown's set of sand weathered walls and worn out newspaper turns round for the second half and becomes the blown apart pieces of a tube train. In Whiteman's work we look more specifically at the blown apart lives after the 7/7 bombings with each piece based on real life experiences, and the evening takes a less satirical tone.
In Pandemonium a 'bitter' husband (Philip Whiteman), severely wounded in the attacks, executes his revenge on his unfaithful wife and lover. Forcing the lover to play a game of chess for the bound woman, his new insight leads him to vicious and destructive ways. Bedlam then takes us to a clinic for those traumatised by the bombings, suffering the after-effects and playing chess games with imaginary brothers. Last but not least, Renaissance, shows a mother trying to clear the room of her dead son a year after his death. She struggles to connect with her family and relationships any more, feeling 'It means nothing to me any more'.
With a cast of four actors taking all the roles, these wide-ranging scenes showcase their impressive diversity. In this, Daphne Kouma stands out, especially in the role of Liz. And as they all hit emotional heights of trauma, this is affecting stuff - the trouble is, there's just too much of it. Each scene is directed with care by Dan Ayling, but the choice of consecutive subject matter leaves one feeling rather like we've been bludgeoned with repetitive emotional trauma rather than moved by it. These are profound pieces but presented in this way means they begin to lose their impact on us. However if you've a taste for war and terror, this is the place to be, because Cheekish Productions serve it up in spades and you could go a lot further wrong than their stylish work.