Pros: The uplifting use of music.
Cons: The lack of character in the play.
A man and a woman begin a long-term relationship after we witness the exact moment when hearty laughter sparks into a more profound attraction. Over time, jealousy, boredom and dissent break the magic and the woman becomes increasingly unstable, with a creeping tendency towards violence. Lydia Larson and Alan Mahon are confident performers, yet, their portrayal of this dysfunctional couple feels weak and their improbable conversations fall flat.
‘What do you fantasise about when you think of us?’ She asks her partner, before confessing that she has a recurrent dream where she smashes his head like a watermelon and extracts his brain with a spoon. If this is supposed to cause horror, it doesn’t work, because the woman sounds too annoying to be threatening.
When the couple play the game ‘Would you still love me if I looked like this?’ the questions asked are puzzling, and make the woman look foolish. She constantly comes across as a pretentious moaner who forces her boyfriend to apologise for reasons unknown to the audience, and to worship her to the point of licking her bleeding wound after a cycling accident. She’s the perpetrator, he’s the victim.
The turning point in the heart of the play comes when the roles change unexpectedly and the characters swap lines in a super fast rewind of the previous scenes. Each reprised vignette aims to show, through heavily stereotyped gender representation, how different the reaction of the man would have been. Again, he’s better than her at dealing with problems.
The well-choreographed direction and the uplifting use of music cannot make up for the crude visuals – like the man destroying a watermelon with his fists – or the shortcoming of strong arguments. In Brutal Cessation, playwright Milly Thomas leaves too many questions unanswered. If she intended to create a darkly allegorical play about the death of a love story, perhaps she could have based it on more substantial scenes.
Author: Milly Thomas
Director: Bethany Pitts
Producer: Michelle Barnette
Box Office: 0131 623 3030
Booking Link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/brutal-cessation
Booking Until: 28 August 2017