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Grip, Reading Fringe Festival Online – Review

Free online as part of Reading Fringe Festival

Free online as part of Reading Fringe Festival What is reality? What is merely our own perception? In this challenging and intimate production, we are asked to consider how individual recollection is just one possible version of events. The uncertainty of this literally shapes everything about Grip, thus providing a solid vehicle for some very difficult conversations. Scott Howland’s Trev is confident and likeable; an ordinary bloke living in a modern world that is often accusatory and oppressive. Battling to deal with the loss of his mother, alongside the masculine inhibitions preventing him from emotionally connecting with his father,…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

This is not a play for a frivolous night out. Prepared to be challenged!

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What is reality? What is merely our own perception? In this challenging and intimate production, we are asked to consider how individual recollection is just one possible version of events. The uncertainty of this literally shapes everything about Grip, thus providing a solid vehicle for some very difficult conversations.

Scott Howland’s Trev is confident and likeable; an ordinary bloke living in a modern world that is often accusatory and oppressive. Battling to deal with the loss of his mother, alongside the masculine inhibitions preventing him from emotionally connecting with his father, he finds himself overwhelmed by social pressures and judgements. As he starts to lose his grip he struggles through a fractured series of scenes. The storyline unapologetically addresses a nightmarish range of issues; toxic masculinity, mental health, drug misuse, sexual consent and self-destruction.

Meeting Louise (Emily Brown), Trev finds someone who shares his anxiety, someone who could be a positive factor in his life. This though goes horribly wrong, and soon we are witnessing two sides of a rape trial. It’s here we are made to doubt what the facts are, and whether memories can be completely trusted.

In the era of the #MeToo movement it’s brave to explore such a topic in this fashion. It offers up an opportunity to contrast the norm, allowing us to experience the dehumanising interrogation process from an unconventional perspective – as undergone by a man, while the reversal of male/female invasion is powerfully presented through Trev’s physical examination, creating a statement for both sides.

Trev’s growing discomfort is made intensely evocative through the play’s self-conscious theatricality; stylised physical movements, slow motion, abrupt scene changes and temporal insecurity. The intimidating presence of Gaz Hayden’s ‘ bad angel’ narrator only heightens the pressure. It all serves to underscore the feeling of uncertainty running through the narrative, which provocatively flips the accepted on its head to ask troubling questions such as ‘if paedophilia is a brain abnormality should it be considered an illness?’. The twist in the reporting of the rape is a stark reminder that we don’t always see things as they might have happened.

This is a dark and brave production with a strong ensemble cast. It succeeds in challenging the norm, leaving the audience with a head full of questions that they must find their own answers to.

Written by: Scott Howland
Directed by: Harriet Taylor
Produced by: Nothing To Perform

About Mary Pollard

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By her own admission Mary goes to the theatre far too much, and will watch just about anything. Her favourite musical is Matilda, which she has seen 12 times, but she’s also an Anthony Neilson and Shakespeare fan - go figure. She has a long history with Richmond Theatre as a Marketing Assistant, tour guide, archivist and volunteer of all sorts, but is currently battling with an MA in London’s Theatre at Roehampton University instead of making a living.