Pumpgirl, Traverse Theatre <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Somewhere, just over the border in Northern Ireland, stands a small, decrepit petrol station. Even the customers who stop off to tank-up on two-star are pretty clapped out in Abbie Spallen's high-octane new three-hander Pumpgirl.

Orla Fitzgerald, fresh from her appearance in Ken Loach's The Wind that Shakes the Barley is painfully alive as the tomboyish pumpgirl whose love for old bangers goes only some way to explaining why she allows herself to be so carelessly exploited. In her soulless relationship with petrolhead "No helmet Hammy" (James Doran), it's not to check his oil pressure that she lies on her back. Played by Maggie Hayes, Hammy's wife conveys a wry sense of life's worth, her desperation at its lack of fulfilment all the more moving.

Spallen structures her play like a piece of music, seamlessly slipping between subject and counter-subject, orchestrating faster and slower movements, themes in a formidable coda. Without ever looking at another character, the excellent cast fuel each other's humorous but also savage and increasingly bleak, unspoken thoughts. Presented by the Bush Theatre and directed by Mike Bradwell, Pumpgirl jolts into top gear as three lives career wildly and compellingly out of control.

Traverse Theatre, in rep until 27 August 0131 228 1404 Bush Theatre, London W1, 12 September - 14 October 020-7610 4224

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