FIRST NIGHT REVIEW: Jaime's star turn

PUBLISHED: 13:59 24 September 2009 | UPDATED: 16:27 07 September 2010

Philip Ridley's malevolent urban horror was a trailblazer for in yer face theatre when it premiered at Hampstead in 1992. But Edward Dick s uneven revival fails to steer the right course between its mythic qualities, dark poetry and heightened reality

Philip Ridley's malevolent urban horror was a trailblazer for 'in yer face'

theatre when it premiered at Hampstead in 1992.

But Edward Dick's uneven revival fails to steer the right course between its mythic qualities, dark poetry and heightened reality - so the seemingly obligatory moment of violence in Act II provokes 'so what' detachment rather than shock.

Set in a crumbling East End flat above a fur factory, Cougar Glass, an Ortonesque amoral predator with a horror of ageing, plots to seduce a teenage boy at his "19th" birthday party.

A narcissist, manipulatively deploying his sexuality to keep the balding, gentle Captain Tock servile, he's a black hole of a character into which audience sympathy and interest is sucked. Alec Newman is insufficiently charismatic to keep him watchable so the first act drags along until the boy's arrival. Unhappily, Neet Mohan as the wide-eyed Foxtrot Darling acts at the audience like he's doing an audition. He seems to be in a different play to the understated worldweariness of Finbar Lynch's Captain Tock.

Then Jaime Winstone's comic firecracker Sherbet Gravel bursts through the door and the play takes off like a rocket.

As Foxtrot's pregnant girlfriend and the bearer of an explosive secret she stalks the room on blue stilettos like the crystal meth-dealing daughter of Beverley from Abigail's Party. Toting party hats and masks, she goads the stone-faced Cougar to celebrate in sing-song tones, but the hard glitter in her eyes betrays a pathological lack of empathy. Winstone displays fine comic timing and suggests a hinterland for the monstrous Sherbet. But the tonal gear change between the taut comic interplay and Ridley's poetic contemporary gothic stories; about a boy with no face, a blind girl in the woods, and a vat full of skinned animals feels like self-conscious speechifying, signalling the parallels between beauty and violence.

Until October 17.

Bridget Galton

The Fastest Clock

in the Universe

Hampstead Theatre

Two stars

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