Just a Minute famously requires contestants to speak on a stipulated subject without hesitation, deviation, or repetition for the titular allotted length. In his debut stage piece, Ticking, appears Paul Andrew Williams, who scored a deserved success with The Eichmann Show on TV, is playing a blinder with a game that's a piquant twist on this venerable format. You take a promising dramatic situation that has an inbuilt reason for lasting just an hour and then you systematically evacuate it of human depth, narrative plausibility and an honourable reason to exist – with the effect that excellent actors (in this case Niamh Cusack, Anthony Head, Tom Hughes) struggle to buoy up material manifestly beneath them.
In an unnamed Eastern country, Tom Hughes's twitchy, selfish, privileged Simon is awaiting execution for the alleged murder of a prostitute. An appeal has just been refused, despite an international campaign for his release. As a desirable son, Simon makes Sebastian Flyte look as dear as Mitch in Streetcar. The supposed interest of the piece is Simon's choosing to spend his precious last hour playing obnoxious mind-games with his evidently stricken parents. Does he leave them wth the legacy of believing him innocent or guilty. Its a moot point as to which is the more pointlessly manipulative: the protagonist or the play itself. Hey, gang, let's get this execution on the road.
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