Cockpit Theatre, 8 November 2008

Reviewed for Remote Goat

Sinisterrr, adjective. More than just sinister; also allowing some insight into the ironic, hypocritical nature of modern life and the people in it. “Like a baby drinking brandy,” explains the heartbroken Anna; “Is that just sinister, or is it a little bit ironic also?”

Metal Mouth Theatre’s Sinisterrr is full of lines like this, which walk a wobbly wire of insight over a tank full of cod philosophy.

Anna’s ex is newly wed and her mum is recently dead; she barricades herself in her Fetcham flat, drinking red wine, eating chips and refusing to clean up or go out. Upstairs, Hannah and Jonathan have just moved from London so Hannah can find work; neither has respect for the others profession and their relationship gradually spirals towards collapse.

Both stories play out independently, but in the same space. As Anna wallows ever deeper into self-pity Hannah and Jonny are forced to pick their way around her filth in order to communicate. Likewise, the couple’s frustrations spill over into Anna’s life as her kitchen fills up with the debris of their increasingly frequent arguments. They’re separate, isolated, but still capable of affecting each other; by the end of the play the whole flat is utterly wrecked by the characters’ gleeful self-destruction.

It’s one of the play’s more successful devices, along with Anna’s ex, leaving voicemail messages by megaphone from the front row; he’s absent from the stage, his voice distorted by distance, but he’s still a physical presence both in the play and in Anna’s life. Short sequences of physical theatre set to music are less effective. They work as self-contained vignettes, representing the couple’s circular arguments or Anna’s stagnating daily routine, but they begin and end too abruptly and feel like an intermission, not an integrated part of the play.

The dialogue is smooth and speakable, with frequent flashes of original thought, such as when Anna realises her ex’s muddy boot prints on her carpet – the catalyst for one of their many fights – are more permanent than the flowers he bought her to express his love. But too many scenes start with some variation on “Y’know that feeling when…” and all three performers have distracting quirks of delivery. Jonny over-enunciates; Hannah slips into baby talk; Anna’s ‘drunk voice’ is a weird staccato Catherine Tate impression.

All of these are forgivable and even entertaining up to a point, but the play has been extended since its debut at the Hen and Chickens Theatre and after a while Anna’s long, long rants about local anesthetic start to sound like bad stand-up comedy.

There’s plenty to enjoy in this production: the sudden heartbreaking realisations that come to Anna in mid-tirade; Hannah’s messy attempt to express her love in a more original way than flowers. But as things stand, those moments are like Anna’s family photos: flashes of bright, evocative colour amidst a jumble of wet paint, dirty bras and leftover chips.

Written by Alex Critoph

Crew includes Alex Critoph (director), David Lawrence, Dave Stone and Louise Stone (set and props)

Cast includes Abi Corbett, Ogul-can Gench, Joel MacCormack and Gracie Tredget


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