Pros: Haunting and impacting with powerful and nuanced performances
Cons: Maybe a little too dark; if you’re looking for a light evening of entertainment, Neil Labute is not your man.
Actually three one-act plays presented in succession, Bash: latterday plays are connected by one horrific deed committed by each set of character(s). Every self-contained act presents completely disparate stories and personalities (though all characters are some-what unhinged), all divulging the same grisly plot point.
The first monologue introduces a traveling businessman haunted by his darkest secret: an undiscovered crime that he chooses to reveal to a stranger in a Las Vagas hotel bar. The following two-hander presents the young John and Sue recounting their big night out in New York City while John, perhaps inwardly, remembers his more private and most ominous excursion. The final solo performance sees the audience witness confessions of sinister revenge by a young woman impregnated and abandoned by her schoolteacher. It’s an unrelenting and intense bombardment of tragedies administered by sick and twisted minds.
The simple set – a crude wooden door frame leading onto a dark stage, tinged with red – is littered by a half ring of chairs, some broken, some functional. The eerie, but affective, result is the implication that each individual, whether their crime has been discovered or not, has already condemned themselves to their own personal hell. Each piece is thick with the sickening anticipation of each inevitably horrible revelation, though tension is occasionally broken by the odd quirky one-liner delivered with perfect comic timing.
Whether you know the play or not, director Jonathan O’Boyle, has created a piece that ensures you know what’s coming. While being separate stories joined by a theme, O’Boyle has strung them together subtly but with impact: a cue for the limelight on the stage while the person in front of them makes their confessions; a loaded look at the next person in line as the person on stage makes their exit; and finally, a representative token of each story/character left on the stage, all three objects eventually left alone to represent and connect the perpetrators of the three tragedies the audience has heard unfold.
Performances by Philip Scott Wallace, Tom Vallen, Dani Harrison and Rebecca Hickey were all impressive. Each delivered moments of humour and lightness with sharp wit, while maintaining the intensity of the piece. Harrison as Sue and Hickey as the young woman in the final monologue were particularly adept at skillfully guiding the audience through the ups and downs of their journey. American accents used by all of the actors were believable if not mildly over-zealous. A cleverly and obviously carefully crafted production, O’Boyle’s rendition of Neil Labute’s Bash: latterday plays is an accomplished, riveting and unnerving piece of theatre, but perhaps not for the faint of heart.
Author: Neil Labute
Director: Jonathan O’Boyle
Box Office: 0844 871 7632
Booking Link: http://www.londontheatredirect.com/play/1518/Bash–Latterday-Plays-tickets.aspx
Booking Until: 7 June 2014