There Will Be More, Cock Tavern Theatre, London

3.00

Edward Bond, the most radical dramatist to emerge from the 1960s, caused outraged with his 1965 play, Saved, in which a baby is casually stoned to death in its pram by a gang of bored yobs. So when you're confronted with the sight of a baby's cot at the start of his latest play, There Will Be More, the effect is not unlike hearing someone's catchphrase or signature tune. You find yourself thinking "He can't. No, surely he can't. Can he?" Oh yes, he can.

The tiny, enterprising Cock Tavern Theatre in Kilburn has pulled off a coup. Honoured in Europe but self-estranged from this country's major theatrical institutions, Bond has written this piece – which constitutes the first London premiere of one of his plays in two decades – expressly for the venue's typically ambitious six-drama season of his work. I only wish I could report that it rises fully to the occasion.

The first 20 minutes make you wonder whether the playwright is flirting with deliberate self-parody. Johnson, a square-jawed young army officer (Stephen Billington), and his wife Dea are getting dressed for a regimental dinner. Left alone for a moment, Dea takes off her evening gown and uses it smother to death her twin babies, battering their heads with the sharp heels of her shoes. The excellent Helen Bang conveys the woman's eerie impassivity thereafter as she sits applying cream at her dressing table. When she accuses her distraught husband of wanting her to kill their sons, he rapes her.

There's a war raging outside, but this wider context, though vital, has to be taken on trust. The story resumes 18 years later with Dea's return as a refugee from the foreign asylum bombed by her husband's nation. Timothy O'Hare is both creepy and touchingly vulnerable as Oliver, one of the set of twins produced by the rape.

But as its plot takes the path of least resistance between one primal convulsion after another, this starkly eloquent, theatrically knowing play stretches credulity to snapping point. Would sex with his child-killing, long-lost spouse be top of Johnson's agenda? Would he try to get rid of his son rather than her by dispatching him to the war? It's no wonder that the tone of Adam Spreadbury-Maher's unsparing, production teeters uncertainly at times between seriousness and melodramatic spoof.





To 13 November (0844 477 1000)

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