Theatre Reviews

Review: Penetrator by Fear No Colours

penetrator
Tom White (left) as Tadge and Chris Duffy (right) as Max

Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)

Play: Penetrator

Playwright: Anthony Neilson

Director: Julia Midtgard

Company: Fear No Colours

Genre: Thriller

Venue: C-cubed, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Performance Date: 10 Aug. 2017

Summary: “Flatmates Max and Alan are happily nursing their hangovers when their old friend Tadge arrives on their door, AWOL from the army and just in time to upset the delicate balance of chill nothings. Something happened to him in the Black Room, where the Penetrators are, something too terrible to speak of. So it must be shown.” (Source: fearnocolours.com)

Content Warnings: simulated sex, masturbation, explicit language, violence, descriptions of rape.


My thoughts

Penetrator is not for the light-hearted and neither was the Fear No Colours’ production. The play literally opens in darkness and gradually, reality begins to blur for the three characters. The shift in atmosphere commences with the entrance of Tadge, portrayed by Tom White, who is evidently disturbed by a series of events. White’s restless character was intriguing to watch, even when he was not speaking. You could see the cogs turning in Tadge’s mind which reflected on his face. Despite seeing his face, White’s character was unpredictable, which made his performance intense and thoroughly captivating.

The shift in atmosphere commences with the entrance of Tadge, portrayed by Tom White, who is evidently disturbed by a series of events. White’s restless character was intriguing to watch, even when he was not speaking. You could see the cogs turning in Tadge’s mind which reflected on his face. Despite seeing his face, White’s character was unpredictable, which made his performance intense and thoroughly captivating.

Unlike Tadge, Max hides a lot behind his dark humour and seemingly apathetic attitude. At the start of the play, Max comes across lazy, much to the annoyance of his flatmate, Alan. Some of Max’s misogynistic and abhorrent beliefs were delivered with acidic truth by Chris Duffy.  The final scenes of Penetrator are where Duffy shines, or rather, where Max is at his darkest.

However, Matt Roberts’ performance was the weakest of the three. I felt that Roberts’ expressions were annoyingly exaggerated throughout the play, in particular during the eye contact with Tadge. In general, I think the whole cast needs to project and articulate much more as some of the lines/impersonations were lost amongst mumbling, shouting, and laughter.

Why did I attend this play?

In-Yer-Face plays are not often performed due to their explicit and uncomfortable content, so it was a must.

Would I attend another Fear No Colours production?

The company regularly tackles difficult issues, so absolutely, I like being challenged.

Overall…

If you enjoy challenging, visceral theatre, then this is for you. The play is being extended at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe according to the Fear No Colour’s Twitter, so make sure to follow them to keep updated.

– Melissa Jennings


What challenging plays have you seen at the Fringe?

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Literature Reviews

Review: Shopping and F***ing by Mark Ravenhill

s and f (1)

Rating: ★★★ (3 stars)

Play: Shopping and F***ing

Playwright: Mark Ravenhill

Genre: In-Yer-Face

Where to buy: Shopping & F***ing

Summary: The plot follows a crowd of drifters and sex traders in a seedy area of London in the 1990s. Five main characters are linked loosely and intermittently and at the centre of the play is an ever-changing love triangle of petty criminals. (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: drug abuse, threat, violence, rape, blood, sexual abuse, explicit sexual language/curses.

N.B. I have also seen this play so my review will encompass my understanding of both experiences.


What I liked…

The playwright was definitely onto something. The state of society is shocking, disgusting, and unfair, and these characters are aware of it – some more than others. The first character to realise the corruption of the self is Mark, the somewhat central character of Ravenhill’s disconcerting play, and he attempts to do something about his life. This is the only character who attempts to do something relatively normal in the play.

His “flatmates”, Robbie and Lulu, are quite relatable as they struggle with finding a purpose in a society revolves around money. Robbie, in particular, delivers a heartfelt monologue about the state of society:

ROBBIE:

I was looking down on this planet. Spaceman over this earth. And I see this kid in Rwanda, crying, but he doesn’t know why. And this granny in Kiev, selling everything she’s ever owned. And this president in Bogota or … South America. And I see the suffering. And the wars. And the grab, grab, grab.

And I think: Fuck Money. Fuck it. This selling. This buying. This system. Fuck the bitching world and let’s be … beautiful. Beautiful. And happy. You see?

(p.40)

There are several other moments like this throughout the play, and those particular moments made the play stay with me for a lot longer after reading.

What I disliked…

In-Yer-Face theatre is either a hit or miss. There are so many vulgar and sexual expletives and references that I found the text overwhelming to read at times. I found Mark rather boring compared to Robbie, Lulu, and Gary, his character just went full cycle and that was that. Perhaps that was Ravenhill’s intention.

Why did I read it?

Having seen the play, I wanted to experience the monologues that moved me again.

Does the playwright have other works?

Mark Ravenhill has written several other plays, Handbag, Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat, and Some Explicit Polaroids.

Overall…

If you like challenging, disturbing drama, then this play is for you.

– Melissa Jennings