Mirror Teeth, Finborough Theatre, London
Tuesday 12 July 2011
It's all screamingly satiric stereotypes in the Jones household in Mirror Teeth, Nick Gill's accomplished, if eventually rather tiresome, new play. Over early evening cocktails, James and Jane (David Verrey and Catherine Skinner) swap banalities and air their racist prejudices in the same tone of mildly deranged brightness with which they dispense scene-setting information about life in "one of the larger cities in Our Country." This is the absurdist world of Ionesco and N F Simpson revisited.
Lending the chirpy, complacent prattle a faintly panicky edge, the fine, well-chosen cast in Kate Wasserberg's assured production skilfully mine the comic convention whereby the characters, though they have much to hide, are forced to be compulsively forthcoming in a running commentary manner. Jane's prattling paranoia about "ethnics" is all too clearly the flip-side of her rape fantasies; her belief that we'll get along in peace once all the undesirables have knifed one another to death feels like a loopy offshoot of the deviant logic her husband uses to justify his arms-trade dealings. Their titanic smugness comes under strain, though, when their "18-year-old sexually active schoolgirl" daughter Jenny (superb Louise Collins) brings home a black boyfriend Kwesi (Jotham Annan) and when, in frustration at his religious aversion to premarital sex, she starts waving her booty at her undergraduate brother (James Baughan).
Mirror Teeth is packed with promise. Its vision of an embattled Little England mentality is drolly intensified by the identical domestic décor when the Joneses, taking Kwesi and their inviolable assumptions with them, move to the Middle East and the lucrative pickings to be derived from selling arms to private militias.
The absurdist tone does not, however, travel as well as the furnishings to the world of riots and real violence in which they fetch up. The attempt at 11th-hour seriousness with the figure of the black policeman who comes to investigate Kwesi's murder – he delivers a lecture to the Joneses about how civilisation in Mesopotamia pre-dated the equivalent in Europe – imparts the wrong kind of discomfort, as does this character's capitulation in the end to the English clan's notion of morality. All the same, I shall watch out for the next piece by this author.
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