Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Cut Throat / Camden Fringe

Cut Throat by Jean-Philippe Baril Guerard as adapted by Matt Cunningham. – London Irish Centre

I caught this play on the penultimate night a week ago now, so this is a quick late review.
The publicity promised:
"How far can you go in the name of free speech?
Does having the right to speak equal having the right to say everything?
In Cut Throat, the right to speak does not come with a promise that the speech be valid or harmless. 
14 characters speak their minds freely about race, religion, relationships, bodies, sex, money, and the meaning of life, without any filter, walking the thin line between comedy and cruelty. An irreverent play that will make you laugh... and cringe."

This was a relatively short, intense play with 14 characters, so nevertheless quite ambitious as the first production by Trip and Guts Theatre. The play takes the form of a series of monologues or largely one-sided two-or three part scenes (mostly loosely unrelated in terms of 'plot' but clearly related thematically). The audience sits around four sides of a square, and the actors pop out from the audience's ranks to perform their roles.

All the actors played their parts with evident relish and panache, and the very wordy play cracks on at a great pace. Stand outs amongst a strong cast for me were Joseph Rain-Varzaneh as the mugger and Hannah Wilder as the long-suffering Usher - one of the shortest spoken roles but she appears throughout the piece as the long-suffering innocent target of the other characters' nastiness. I can see why this play would appeal to actors - firstly, each character gets a lot to say and is completely central whilst they say it, each character has an internal dramatic tension to reveal as the 'real' inner person breaks through an initial 'polite' or politically-correct outer shell; and there is external drama in each mini situation too.

We saw this play on the back of Chemsex Monologues, also created (obviously) around monologues. Monologues are an interesting theatrical device, notably introduced by Shakespeare to reveal a character's innermost thoughts. They are at once the most artificial of constructs, breaking any feel of 'realism' on stage but simultaneously the most powerful and direct communication between actor and audience there can be - really harking back to ground zero of narration - speaker to listener. There is a tendency in a monologue for an actor to reach for a kind of declamatory style, which we thought a bit difficult in Chemsex but this works strongly in Cut Throat. I think this is because Chemsex the play has realistic fundamental assumptions - the play is about 'real' characters and plot whereas Cut Throat skews more conceptual. The characters are very far from realistic, are usually quite easily identifiable stock contemporary types  - and each scene and character unfolds in a similar way, repeating the themes of the play almost like an abstract pattern until the climax. My favourite character, the mugger, is completely surreal, made up as he is of bravura flights of literary language and philosophy completely alien I would imagine to any real mugger.

Altogether, a most stimulating evening.

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