Mike Bartlett's new play is about office bullying and the survival of the fittest. Even the audience seem to match the design concept; bright young things, clustering round Soutra Gilmour's striking boxing-ring set, elbows on the rails, as Christopher Shutt's pre-show sound design pumps out "Eye of the Tiger".
The play is one continuous scene, over in less than an hour; it's pace and tone relentless; there is barely time to breathe. Under Peter Mumford's stark fluorescent strip-lighting and on Gilmour's nasty, institutional carpet, there is nowhere to hide, but fortunately no need to. The main trio of protagonists, played by Adam James, Eleanor Matsuura and Sam Troughton never drop the ball, and have been expertly cast. Matsuura commands the stage with a steely, equine beauty, and James' effortless arrogance is the perfect foil to Troughton's pathetic underdog.
The frightening impact of Bartlett's writing is that when Matsuura's character explains that "it might be an evolved thing in a society, in a culture, that if we see someone who's really going to fuck up the rest of us because they're stupid or slow or weak or thin or short or ugly or has dandruff or something you have to desire somewhere deep within you to take them down first to get rid of them and strengthen the tribe", we understand her. We have not only observed, but laughed along with, become entirely complicit in, the destruction of a human being. Plenty to ponder as the play ends with a mesmerising coup-de-theatre, orchestrated by director Clare Lizzimore.