Pros: Absolutely outstanding performances by the entire cast, with Luke Trebilcock stealing the show as one of the most chilling and creepy characters I’ve ever seen.
Cons: The tension is almost unbearable at times in the tiny, intimate space of the theatre.
Mojo took the Royal Court Theatre by storm when it premiered there in 1995, and writer Jez Butterworth went on to collect a medley of prizes for the play. Now, it is being staged again at the tiny White Bear Theatre with a cast that brilliantly splutters, charms and bullies its way through the fast-paced and psychologically intricate plot. In the Dean Street Club they all work in, Potts, Sweets, and Skinny emerge from their drugged up, drunken state one morning to find their employer Ezra cut in two with his bloody remains residing in the dustbins outside, and the club’s young hit singer, Silver Johnny, nowhere to be found.
Paranoia and fear take hold as the wannabe gangsters, together with Ezra’s son Baby and business partner Mickey, desperately try and miserably fail to come up with a plan of attack against the unseen enemy. Stuck in the same room with yet more pills and booze to meddle with their minds, the five men’s superficial friendships, petty rivalries and deepest fears are exposed. In some ways, it is like watching boys in the playground: they bully, they lie, they hug, they inflict pain on one another and try to make it up again. The dialogue is fast and clever, contrasting the comically bewildering rants of men high on every imaginable drug with a much deeper and more serious undertone. In particular, we learn of Baby’s disturbing past of sexual violence, and almost forgive him his bullying nature.
The cast is phenomenal and their energy unmatched as they dash around the stage. Max Saunders Singer as the ridiculous, scheming Potts is particularly impressive as he races his way through the complicated script, while at the same time displaying the effects of narcotics on his character. Sitting in close proximity to the players in this intimate space becomes overwhelming, and the tension almost unbearable.
The star of this brilliant show, however, was Luke Trebilcock as the completely damaged, disturbing and creepy Baby. Trebilcock brings a real intensity and dangerous energy to his character. Baby is a terrifying figure, made scarier still by the fact that one actually pities him and wants to like him. My heart almost broke for Baby when he gruffly brought in toffee apples as an act of apology, or told the story of himself as a nine-year old in a van in Wales, scared and alone with his violent father in the dark. Minutes later I hated him for his cruelty and bullying, and of the five, he is the only one who does any real harm. Mojo is a truly outstanding play that despite all the laughs will crawl under your skin and not let you go.