Theatre: On The Fringe

IT TAKES a certain intrepidity to call a show Sell Out. As a description of the youthful Frantic Assembly's latest offering, the title is a trifle misleading: Michael Wynne's play exposes the slip-knot bond of four twentysomething friends who, it emerges, are too faithless to have ever really bought into anything. As a forecast of the works reception on tour, though, it has proved uncannily accurate. To have had to add an extra date to their recent British Festival of Visual Theatre run looks like good fortune. To have packed out the Bull Theatre in Barnet with teens on a wet Friday night - as they did last week - looks nothing short of miraculous. If they can command this kind of attention at the end of the Northern Line, who knows what business they could drum-up in the centre of London.

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

Dominic Cavendish

Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette

film
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz