Pros: Intelligent script and a gutsy performance from the cast.
Cons: 65 minutes wasn’t long enough to fully appreciate challenging characters.
Dirty Promises is the final installment in a quartet of plays presented by the Hope Theatre as part of the HopeFull repertory season. The play opens with local Wide boy Crabby plying his wares from a very deep holdall. Among the goodies on offer are his mother’s microwave oven and a semi automatic pistol. The firearm is bought by the slightly odd Drew, who invites Crabby home to meet the love of his life, Lucy. Slick, streetwise Crabby is dumbstruck by Lucy’s appearance; a shapely blonde with long flowing locks shielded by a paper bag on her head. At this point, Crabby becomes us, the watching audience. He shares our bemusement as all manner of explanations run through his mind. Crabby can’t resist probing further, but is actually scared of Drew particularly with the gun he’s just sold him. Will such scrutiny send Drew over the edge?
Lucy eventually removes the paper bag and the reason for such a bizarre cover up becomes obvious. Crabby realises Lucy is trapped in an abusive relationship and resolves to free her from Drew’s clutches. However, Lucy’s love for Drew is not only blind but deaf and dumb as she fights to justify their affair. There is an ingenious use of pop songs to punctuate the dialogue; doo wop classics like ‘Earth Angel’ and ‘Lipstick On Your Collar’ give the story a surreal quality while ‘Stand By Your Man’ is a defiant riposte to one of life’s enduring contradictions. There are teasing flashbacks to the couple’s first meeting and Drew’s attempts to find work and therein a normal existence. We also learn of the couple’s absent mothers – the only tangible bond they share – Drew’s late mother whose death he has not yet overcome and Lucy’s uncaring, disinterested mother. The tension is only broken by occasional forays into humour. For example, Drew’s penchant for role-play and Lucy jokily confusing ‘doctors and nurses’ with scenes from Casablanca.
As the play builds to a climax, Drew becomes increasingly erratic as he loses control of Lucy. Crabby’s efforts to do the right thing become progressively desperate and perilous. A surprising revelation creates a spectacular stand off that you won’t see coming. The script is wonderfully inventive and gives the characters surprising depth in a relatively short period of time. Kirsty J Curtis shines as Lucy with her use of slick rhyming couplets; Jed O’Hagan as Drew is dangerous, vulnerable and child like in equal measure; Michael Lyle as Crabby is a cool dude with machine gun delivery. The only real weak spot is the play’s length; 65 minutes is never quite long enough for a stage play. I wanted to know more about Lucy and Drew’s mothers, and why exactly did Drew buy the gun from Crabby? Another half an hour could have fleshed out characters that were only just beginning to engage the audience. Having said that, playwright Lilly Driscoll and the cast show great potential.
Author: Lilly Driscoll.
Director: Tom Latter.
Producer: So and So Arts Club/Hope Theatre.
Box Office: 0207 478 0160
Booking until: 30 August 2014.