THEATRE / Acapulco - King's Head Theatre, N1

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The Independent Culture
Buried somewhere in Steven Berkoff's latest, disappointing, slight and tedious playlet is a potentially potent little travelogue which would guarantee that no one is ever again lured to the Acapulco tourist trap - either for business or pleasure. There's nothing to do but get smashed and score. Unless, of course, you want a glimpse of those sunsets with bloody edges that Steve (played by Berkoff) bangs on about with a lyrical banality that is frankly embarrassing.

The opening - a typically brash and Berkoffian swipe - has promise despite being remarkably unoriginal. In a sleazy, sweaty armpit of a bar the action freezes on Karen, an airhead from New Joisey, assessed - pretty fairly, so it happens - as 'a vagina attached to a life-support machine' - by a fellow bar-prop. Her focus is Steve (revolted but, despite his better nature, unresisting), who is on location in Acapulco, making a documentary about Sylvester Stallone, a detail which merely supplies the rest of the bar-bums with a reason for being there (they are playing bit-parts in the movie) but barely holds the play together.

Berkoff allows the sozzled Scot, the incredible hulk and the goofy guy from Brooklyn (Hilton McCrae, Terence Beesley and Joe Montana respectively) just a quick blast of glorious expressionist grotesquerie. Their performances are terrific - Berkoff, the director, can clearly be inspirational. Berkoff, the writer, is far from it and these cameos aren't given the space that might possibly bring the play to dramatic life. Instead, Berkoff keeps bringing the attention back to himself, the single character who keeps his head when all about him lost theirs to debauchery years ago. He alone sees an actor's life for what it is not, and Acapulco for the hellhole that it really is - a land laid waste by the conquering Spanish. Indeed, he alone sees life as the cage that makes prisoners of us all. Wow. But there's always those sunsets.

To 6 Sept (071-226 1916)