nut: theatre review - 'the dialogue is fast-paced with occasional Pinteresque pauses'

The Shed, National Theatre

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The Independent Culture

This new play by caps-averse debbie tucker green appears to take us in two directions: a troubled young black woman interacts with visitors - friends, neighbours, or something more disturbing?

They plan their own funerals with comic grandiosity (bouncers; screens outside) and argue over who’ll die first. Their location, relationships, and intentions remain obscure, under Lisa Marie Hall’s set of warped everyday structures: falling iron girders, bent scaffolding, tumbling metal chairs. Next we meet an ex-husband-and-wife; they fight too, with as much vigour, but feel more grounded in the real world.

Running at a brisk 70 minutes, the dialogue is fast-paced and overlapping, with occasional Pinteresque pauses giving birth to the funniest lines and most menacing moments. Like that playwright, green also scratches at a seemingly irrational underlying viciousness. The bickering; the probing of weak spots and dishing of blame; the instant, constant, “no-I-didn’t” denials; the struggle for human touch or tenderness… nut can be dispiriting.

But the script is also witty, linguistically pitch-perfect, and - delivered by a strong cast - has real intensity. It’s thistley dialogue bristles and barbs, but also somehow sticks to the inside of your brain. And green’s structure provides a later reveal that lifts nut from being merely a moody chamber piece.

To 5 Dec;