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The Assault

(Part of Brazil X 2)
By Jose Vicente
Produced by Alter Ego Productions Old Red Lion Theatre
(2009)

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The Assault is in fact, just that; not just an assault on the characters but also the audience as you are forced to confront the seedy truth about power, money, desperation and homosexuality in Sao Paulo in the late 1960s.

At only an hour and twenty minutes, there is no beating around the bush with Jose Vicente's gritty two hander. Vicente's exploration of class divisions is anything but black and white and is instead a rather murky shade of grey.

Victor (Steven Farah), a lowly bank clerk, and Hugo (Jade Willis), a cleaner earning half the minimum wage, are confronted with one and other as Victor locks Hugo in his office and essentially terrorises not only Hugo, but also himself. Farah's performance as this lonely, nebbish accountant is intensely unnerving. Crippled by his closet homosexuality and feelings of worthlessness within a corporate jungle, he is desperate to assert his power over someone - anyone. As his obsession with Hugo reveals itself, Farah's twitching mannerisms and frantic ramblings contrast beautifully with Jade Willis' mild mannered Hugo who has become accustomed to being used and abused but has learnt best how to manipulate it to his advantage. Willis' cool exterior initially remains unaffected; but even he underestimates the twisted nature of Victor's desperation.

Inspired by de Vicente's experiences of military dictatorship and his own personal homosexual repression, the brutal nature of his writing cuts right through any sense of political correctness to take an intensely personal look at how mankind reacts when faced with extreme repression.

Victor Esses's production of this award winning play really is hard hitting stuff which stays with you long after you've left the theatre. As part of a double bill with Rodrigo de Roure's The Last Days of Gilda, The Assault, whilst capturing Brazilian culture in the 1960s, continues to speak volumes today about social class structures and repression to a modern London audience.

Until 5th September

Reviewer: Rachel Sheridan