THEATRE Swaggers BAC, London
Swaggers draws on his experiences working in a West End swag shop, the kind of place where you buy bootleg tapes, fake designer clothes, ersatz Cartier watches and computer accessories of doubtful provenance. In Mahoney's version, the shop is a place of staggering wealth - deals are discussed in hundreds of thousands of pounds; vast wads of cash change hands - but it's also a half-way house, a sort of interface between the criminal milieu and the workaday world (among other things, it's a way of laundering drug money). And the staff are similarly caught between two stools, imagining that they're in a proper business, refusing to face up to the fragility of it all - a fragility neatly caught by John Howes's set, with its cardboard boxes stencilled with logos for CK, YSL and DKNY.
So Tess, the manager, dreams of working for a solicitor in Camberwell, but won't make the break because she worries that the law is too precarious. Michael, her boss and lover, lives in a pounds 250,000 house in Hampstead and fondly imagines he's an upwardly mobile businessman. Drop-dead gorgeous Nancy gets her kicks hanging out with gangsters. Only John, a legendary thug just out of jail, and Michael's sister-in-law Dee seem to have any sense of how chancy this way of life is.
There are a lot of things to admire in Mahoney's script: a strong sense of character; an ear for the low-life vernacular; some excellent gags - like John's defence of boxing against the accusation that it causes brain damage ("It's not like they're going to miss out on the guy who's going to find a cure for Aids"). And he paints a convincing picture of the fudged ethic that binds the characters together - paying lip-service to a criminal code of honour and family loyalty that only John really believes in, and to a fastidious sexual morality (thoroughly modern Nancy, with her PVC dresses and psycho boyfriends, turns out to be saving herself for marriage).
The play is marred by some implausible plotting: we're expected to believe that Curly, Michael's superior, has been shot by rival gangsters and kept under armed guard in hospital and nobody in the shop knows anything about it. And Mahoney the director doesn't seem to know how to work the rhythms supplied by Mahoney the playwright; the dialogue often shambles when it should race, a lot of it getting lost altogether. The individual performances are fine - particularly Peter Hugo Daly's amiable, canny John - but they don't mesh together well. All the same, if you did spend your money, you wouldn't feel you'd been robbed.
To 9 March. Booking: 0171-223 2223
A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend
A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The way the police have treated Cliff Richard is completely unacceptable
- 2 Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
- 3 Michael Brown shooting: Ferguson police shoot and kill second young black man
- 4 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 5 Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermeister and vodka
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness
JK Rowling releases new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing Celestina Warbuck, the 'Singing Sorceress'
Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermeister and vodka
The funniest joke at Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Tim Vine wins for second time
Kate Bush: Previously unseen photographs reveal new side to comeback star
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head