I thought that Judy Upton's Sliding with Suzanne, at the Royal Court's Theatre Upstairs and then on a national tour, was bleak; but next to Redundant, now being premiered in the downstairs main house, it is Noises Off.
Leo Butler could, in fact, have easily titled his play Sliding with Lucy, since it charts a similar downward spiral for its lead character, a 17-year-old girl called Lucy, in the meagre Sheffield council flat she calls home.
Complete with a granny-bashing that puts it in a Royal Court tradition that stretches back to Edward Bond's Saved and its infamous baby stoning, this portrait of a year in the life of the emotionally and financially impoverished Lucy is not comfortable or enjoyable viewing.
Butler, a 26-year-old writer who just two years ago was ushering at the theatre, has created a convincing set of characters around Lucy and has expertly echoed the harshly streetwise dialogue they converse in. But there is no enlightenment, let alone release, to be gained from spending time in the harsh world he is reflecting.
At least Sliding with Suzanneoffered some hope, even if unearned, of redemption for its characters, but Redundant is bleakly hopeless. In the circumstances, Dominic Cooke directs his committed cast, led by Lyndsey Marshal's slightly too mature but mercurial Lucy, into giving performances that make their characters resonate beyond the limited world, defined by the walls of Robert Innes Hopkins's shabbily audacious set, of Butler's play.
- reviewed by Mark Shenton