Peter Morris: The Age of Consent / A& R, Pleasance Above / Gilded Balloon

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The obvious references to Jamie Bulger's murder in these intertwined monologues have provoked predictable controversy.

The obvious references to Jamie Bulger's murder in these intertwined monologues have provoked predictable controversy. The award-winning playwright Peter Morris can certainly be cleared of exploitative sensationalism, though whether he contributes anything significant to the debate is more doubtful.

The character of Timmy is clearly an imagined version or amalgam of Jon Venables and/or Robert Thompson, eight years on from the killing and preparing for his release, with Ben Silverstone's portrayal adroitly pitched between immaturity and knowledge, bravado and fear, ordinariness and chilling singularity. His story is alternated with that of Stephanie (Katherine Parkinson), the single mother of a budding child star, whose self-seeking ambitions for her daughter slideinto abuse as the disjunction between her brightly common-sense manner and the import of what she's saying yawns wider.

Timmy's, unsurprisingly, is the more complex, searching account, name-checking factors such as his brutalised home life, media rabble-rousing and public sanctification of one child as against the demonisation of two others. The overall feel, however, remains essentially speculative, and Morris fails to do more than touch on the questions of motive, or why so many people want to punish and vilify 10-year-old murderers more than adult ones.

Anna and Ricky live in relative happy squalor, in Boston. Ricky wants to be a rock star but writes lyrics like "loneliness will put you down later, love will wear you down like a cheese grater". Anna wants to get married. The trouble starts, when in a fit of misanthropic experimentation, Damien Petron, the demonic A&R from Polymer Records, decides to play with fate and offer Ricky a record contract and the tempting prospect of fame.

Apart from some ill-developed homoerotic scenes and more than a little anal fixating, Morris's play is almost without fault. That it is callow is not the criticism; Morris shows a cynical maturity. The problem is that the characters suffer at the hands of an unnecessarily verbose script; interspersing comments about Joy Division with music from Wagner, and making a jump of intellect from Jerry Springer to Socrates via Hemingway in a few sentences. This seems more to do with the writer's need for ostentation than the narrative. With less, the play scores more.

'The Age of Consent', venue 33 (0131-556 6550), 17.30 (18.40), to 19 Aug. 'A&R', venue 38 (0131-226 2151), 18.00 (19.15), to 27 Aug (not Mondays)

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