Ingredient X, Royal Court, London

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The Independent Culture

Nick Grosso, the playwright who first emerged in the same Royal Court season as Sarah Kane (in 1994), has never quite fulfilled his early promise. One wonders how personal, therefore, his new play might be.

The male character, Frank, is a recovering addict of Italian extraction, and there's not much he can do to please the women in his life. Three of them – his partner, Katie, and two noisy neighbours, Rosanna and Deanne – send him out twice during the final of The X Factor on television; twice he comes back without what they need – coke (the drink) and ice.

God only knows what Frank's been through – and James Lance, playing the role, keeps his cards pretty close to his chest – but he's definitely hoping not to go there again, and he's now stabilising his new relationship with Katie (a beautifully bedraggled Indira Varma) and their new (offstage) baby; Katie's ex, and his new wife, though, are causing anxiety (again offstage) with her older daughter.

It's an odd play, not a bad one, written in paragraphs, or chunks. Stylistically, the acting, too, proceeds in a series of bumps and grinds, words which come especially to mind in the case of Lesley Sharp as Rosanna, married to an addict, without sex for three years, up for a laugh and trawling the internet for a date.

She and the others are stuck in front of the television picking at sores and discussing addictions. They're all at it, one way or another, on this manor. Rosanna's husband, and his mate who lost both feet in an industrial accident, have been making a home porn movie. Deanne's son has been nicked, yet again, for nicking a motorbike.

This releases Lisa Palfrey as Deanne into a wonderfully indulgent speech about being a drunk fat slag (four children by different fathers) while screaming for one last drink before she gives up; she never will.





To 19 June (020 7565 5000)

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