Mercury Fur, Menier Chocolate Factory, London - Reviews - Theatre & Dance - The Independent

Mercury Fur, Menier Chocolate Factory, London

4.00

Just before the start of this strikingly designed traverse staging of Philip Ridley's egregious new play, a functionary comes on and points out the particular exit that can be used by members of the public if they want to leave prematurely during the interval-less two-hour piece.

Just before the start of this strikingly designed traverse staging of Philip Ridley's egregious new play, a functionary comes on and points out the particular exit that can be used by members of the public if they want to leave prematurely during the interval-less two-hour piece. He also announces that there will be no readmittance.

As it turns out, Mercury Fur is the kind of play that will make some people want to make an early bolt for the outside world, and one of the twists is that those so minded have to depart by trekking across Laura Hopkins's powerful evocation of an abandoned flat on a derelict east London estate.

The night I attended, there were about half a dozen deserters. It was fascinating that they all left individually; that they did so at widely spaced intervals; and that (above all) they did not seem to be leaving in disgust at an often blackly hilarious and deserving piece. Rather, one feels that the unremitting subject matter - summed up in the epigraph by David Leavitt: "Sometimes brutality is the only antidote to sorrow'' - became too much for them, regardless of Ridley's particular treatment of it.

Acted with a thrilling comic, wired-up precision by John Tiffany's superb cast, the play immerses us in a ravaged, dystopian London that seems to have been reduced to lawlessness by an invasion of hallucinogenic butterflies dropped by some unspecified enemy power. People who remember what life was like before are becoming few and far between.

Elliot (played with the serrated sensitivity of an army knife by Ben Whishaw) and his brother (Robert Boulter) are rushing to get the ruined apartment ready for a party for a kinky paying client - the pièce de résistance is not a cake but a specially reared prepubescent boy who isn't likely to leave that flat except in bits and in bags. And not of the "doggy'' variety, either.

Some may object that this figure, heartlessly named "Party Piece'', is brought on stage. Certainly, I can't imagine how the young actors who play him could come through the rehearsal process entirely unscathed. That important matter aside, it seemed to me that the play has the right to risk toying with being offensive to bring home just how morally unsettling this depraved, perverted-kicks world has become. If you could sit through it unaffronted on the artistic level, it would surely have failed in its mission.

The performances have an almost hallucinatory edge, while never becoming caricatures. Eyes groping helplessly around as she struggles to fix on to the next self-protective fantasy, Sophie Stanton is hysterically funny and unnerving as a tiara-ed creature nicknamed the Duchess, who is so off her trolley that she has muddled her own life story with the plot of The Sound of Music. A flawed evening (the political context is too conveniently hazy) but, I suspect, an indelible one.

To 27 March (020-7907 7060)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin teaches Clara to shoot an arrow
doctor who
Arts and Entertainment
Queen Christina left the judges baffled with her audition
X Factor
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week