Dominic Leyton
Hackney Empire Studio

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A posh young professional has an assignation at the litter-strewn King's Cross squat of a fast-talking crack-head but who should turn up but an Irish assassin? At first this looks like being a play about terrorist links with the drug trade but in fact it's a very different scenario.

Well-spoken Tom, real name Horatio, may have a nice flat and what sounds like a smart job in journalism but life's nowhere near coming up to his expectations. Magazine Deputy Editor isn't quite so glamorous when you know it's Public Service Vehicle Monthly he works for and now his girlfriend has just walked out on him. Crack-head D's problem is that he never had any expectations. Child of a single mum, who died when he was seven, he grew up in a children's home. Now he lives for his next fix, devoid of confidence that he can ever break out of the world he lives in. Both men are looking to escape from forms of dependence. Will hard man Hoodwink, who terrifies D, bring it?

Leyton writes as though he knows these people: the addict who has flogged even the light switches from his squat but owns a Blackberry for contacting dealers; the disillusioned journo, tediously anal; the tough guy who can only sort things out with violence, but. 'Love is a warm form of madness,' declares Horatio, missing both woman and her share of the rent -- he doesn't give them a dialogue of repetitive expletives

The writing is matched in Simon Collier's production which balances naturalism with a theatrical formality, echoed in Sophia Lovell Smith's setting which gives the physical essentials but suggests a no-man's land, the barrenness of the lives we are watching. In sixty-five minutes of 'real-time' action you are engaged but never quite sure where things are going to go, the production maintaining a dramatic tension flecked with humour and stoked by violence (which is carefully choreographed by Omar Okai). It leaves the audience to make their own decisions about the continuation of the story.

There is a stunning central performance from Curtis Flowers as D, moving from gibbering addict to articulate clarity; it is rare to see such integrated physical and vocal performance. Beside it Tim Faulkner's Horatio seems to ooze middle class self-control, despite his emotional trauma, while Munro Graham gives Hoodwink a violent edge and a cold confidence which turns out to be the man's weakness. This is a dramatic entertainment, not a social documentary, but it does catch a real feeling for social circumstances in both the writing and the playing.

At Hackney Empire Studio until 21st November 2009

Reviewer: Howard Loxton

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