Traverse, Theatre Royal Bath and Bush Theatre
Catherine-Anne Toupin's play from French-Canadian Quebec gets the royal treatment in this British première. The co-production between the Traverse, Theatre Royal Bath and Bush is directed by the RSC's former supremo Michael Boyd, translated by the Royal Court's Chris Campbell and has a distinguished cast, the majority of whom are Scottish.
Viewers might quickly determine that the only way that this comedy drama is ever likely to make much sense is by regarding the events as extracts from a rather bizarre dream.
After not too many of the 80 minutes, the odds are that the dreamer enduring what has already begun to feel more like a nightmare is probably Lindsey Campbell's Alice. The young doctor's wife is entitled to seek a little escapism, the couple's young child having recently died in circumstances that are never explained.
Alice is lonely, since Sean Biggerstaffe playing Ben works long hours and has little energy for passion on his rare visits to their comfortable.
The catalyst for unsettling comedy is a visit from Maureen Beattie's Juliette, not so much the neighbour from Hell as the herald for a whole family of them.
Once she has aggressively invited herself in, Juliette is immovable and, to compound the irritation value, invites herself back with Guy Williams as her polished but equally forward husband Gilles, a famous medical author, and their son François, played by Dylan Dwyfor, an infuriating and distinctly odd chip off the old blocks.
What ensues lies somewhere between black comedy, chiller and sex romp. Nothing ever really hangs together, since the home team is controlled to an inexplicable degree by their jovial but innately nasty neighbours.
While the other four actors have fun going way over the top, as the script demands, Lindsey Campbell gives poor Alice a degree of pathos thanks to an intense but moving depiction of a woman in a constant state of confusion and distress.
In the final stages of a packed but short evening, the nocturnal activities of this mismatched quartet finally begin to make some sense, allowing viewers to reflect on what they have witnessed and failed to comprehend during most of the previous 75 minutes.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher