Bea, Soho Theatre, London
Monday 13 December 2010
After plays on ego, emotion and religion, the writer-director Mick Gordon has turned the attention of his On Theatre project to assisted killing; but not, as you might expect, to consider the case of a middle-aged or disabled sufferer.
Teenaged Bea is full of bounce and brio, even though she has been more or less confined to bed for eight years, thanks to an unspecified illness. What we are seeing over a dense 95 minutes is the physical expression of an inner life, a spiritual fantasy.
This seems to be an excellent way of "making theatre" of unspeakable frustration and despair – what might have been will never be, except in this performance. But there is an added dimension in the bizarre routines and speeches of Bea's mother and her Belfast-born carer, "Not Gay Ray".
Dresses are exchanged, other characters (the absconding father, for instance) obliterated, the world denied. Ray provides not only the possibility of sexual comfort, but speeches of Blanche DuBois and the pleasures of theatre-going with ice-cream and tabs of acid in the interval.
Perhaps Gordon doesn't nail this; the set-up runs out of puff. But this is a modern, socially concerned version of Jean Genet's The Maids, with its kinky role-playing and power bargains. Pippa Nixon's Bea, athletic and manipulative, has a blissful comic edge; one day she is making an earring, the next asking Ray to pay attention to her appetite down below.
There is a touch of fantastical oddness in Paula Wilcox as the barrister mother and, especially, Al Weaver as Ray, who dances to his own tune as much as to Bea's before being dismissed as if he were a hired hand. Mother and daughter are finally on the bed together, and there is some suitably poisonous music by Nick Lloyd Webber. The play is by no means perfect but it is unusual and disturbing and the enclosed world of the gigantic bedroom is well designed by Alice Woodward.
To 8 January (020 7478 0100)
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
- 4 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: George Lucas admits he hasn't seen The Force Awakens trailer
Star Wars: Rogue One trailer: Watch the teaser for the Jedi-less Death Star heist film
Avengers Age of Ultron 'after credits' scene leaks online days before cinema release
Groundhog Day musical to premiere at Old Vic from Matilda theatre director
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate