Theatre: On The Fringe
Wednesday 11 November 1998
It's not hard to fathom the appeal. Frantic - who have been operating since 1992 - continue to make an acting area as sexy as a dancefloor: Force 10 techno sounds come crashing in at every available opportunity; in the programme, a scrap of notepaper with a scrawled playlist of scenes ("love stairs", "secrets", "sizequeen" etc) spells death to stuffy three- acters. The cast of four - in roles that steal their own christian names - display an agility normally reserved for steroid enhanced Russian gymnasts. In skimpy tops and the usual club rig-out, Cait Davies, Scott Graham, Steven Hoggett and Ansty Thomas leap into each other's arms, dash each other to the ground and find countless ways of draping themselves off two moveable steel structures: a set of easily tipped up steps and what looks like a cross-sectioned WC. When they open their mouths to speak they sound so unfazed they might have been just boiling the kettle.
But it's what they say that counts. The super fit expressionism (choreographed by T C Howard) runs parallel to the bruising attitudes that surface after the opening scene, in which a euphoric Stephen celebrates his birthday with girlfriend Kate and two best mates. In the cold, clear light of reflection, it dawns on him that everyone knew what was coming: Scott was a furtive rival while Ansti's gift, a self-help book, quietly declared her unthinking support for Kate's cynical refusal to commit. Wynne sketches the emotional trench warfare that ensues with devastating economy. The wounding remarks can be transparently juvenile ("I really think the scabies brought us together, at least we had something in common when we had them"), but that's what gives Sell Out its integrity. Imagine a hormonally raging prequel to Closer, or Pinter's Betrayal with added beats per minute.
The physical skills deployed in the Scarlet Theatre company's Stranded are more subtly expressive than Frantic's bicep-breaking contortions. But then, they have to be. Katarzyna Deszcz has chosen a simple, if vivid, storyline, based on the Italian judge and playwright Ugo Betti's Crime on Goat Island, about a thick-skinned stranger who invites himself into a remote house occupied by three women claiming to have befriended Agatha, the head of the household's husband before he died in a prison-of-war camp. It's the awkward silences, the mutual sizing up, rather than the terse dialogue that grips, though, as allegiances shift bringing ill-tempered rifts. As the matriarch's sister-in-law and daughter, Jane Guernier and Sarah-Theresa Belcher provide strong support, rich in scatty detail, but it is Linda Kerr-Scott's abandoned widow Agatha who supplies the piece's tragicomic cores: her rapid neck movements suggest a startled farmyard goose, her pursed lips and severe eyes an eternity of strife between the sexes.
`Stranded', Young Vic, London SE1, to 21 Nov. `Sell Out', 13 Nov UEA, Norwich; 17 Nov, Theatre Studio, Scarborough and touring until March 1999
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Poldark episode 8, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
Peter Kay’s Car Share, TV review: The perfect vehicle for Kay’s comic talents
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove