Theatre: The nightmare of youth - Arts and Entertainment - The Independent

Theatre: The nightmare of youth

SELL OUT

NEW AMBASSADORS

LONDON

AT THE start of Sell Out, there's a birthday celebration for twentysomething Steve that is creepy in a way you can't quite pin down. His lover, Cait, and two friends ply him with birthday cake and with presents which ominously include a self-help book. By the end, when there's a replay of this ceremony, now drained of all innocence by hindsight, you are in a position to gauge the clumsy mix of kindliness and sheer lack of tact in that gift.

Performed by the hip physical theatre company, Frantic Assembly, the show - which is scripted by Michael `The Knock' Wynne - melds speech and athletic modern dance movement as it follows the snowballing emotional damage created by the break-up of Cait and Steve's relationship. The analogy that might first spring to mind is with Closer, suggesting that this is a sort of bitter verbal punch-up plus ballet; but the aesthetic of the piece, in aligning dialogue and abstract gesture to the accompaniment of bursts of techno-music, is much more akin to what David Greig and Suspect Culture achieved in a piece like Timeless.

A paranoid desire for control and a fear of showing vulnerability appear to be the guiding principles of the foursome in Wynne's play. Doggedly tough, Cait Davies's character (the actors use their own names) is driven to dump people before they can dump her. Her arms flailing convulsively round her body, she claws at her person as though trying to pull out by the roots all memory of contact. Emotion here is routinely literalised - for example, when the Anstey Thomas character offers the discarded lover emotional support, she has to shift him like some slipping, dead-weight ventriloquist's dummy from knee to knee. The kind of girl who tries to convince herself that she can derive all of her emotional sustenance from friendships, Anstey is repeatedly detained, hauled around and squashed by the dangling feet of her chums who are perched like predators on top of the walls surrounding her.

The piece was lapped up by the largely twentysomething audience I saw it with. I wish I could be as positive. What jarred with me was the edge of portentousness. There may be humour here but it is never of a kind that therapeutically punctures the self-importance of the participants. Stiflingly, everything is seen in their rather banal terms. Watching the show, I was reminded of what TS Eliot said about wit: "It involves, probably, a recognition, implicit in the expression of every experience, of other kinds of experience which are possible." On that definition, Sell Out is systematically devoid of wit, since in the expression of this quartet's experience, you are hectored into forgetting that any other sort of life is conceivable.

I'd be sorry to think that Frantic Assembly's shows will continue to make older people feel that youth is a nightmare from which it is heaven to have woken up.

To 4 July. Box office: 0171-836 6111

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
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.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week