Short Nights live up to their name with Mutiny, which comprises two brief plays charting the madness festering beneath everyday appearances. Daniel and the Spider, penned by Thomas McMullan, is a trenchantly Kafkaesque jaunt into the horrors of the office; surreal in speech and presentation, it depicts mental frailty vis-à-vis an unfeeling economic dystopia.
Daniel, a man with a voracious desire for power, is outwardly aggrieved that Amy has become boss of the ‘Company’ but is also assailed by interior visions – evoked by subtle lighting changes – of a boss/monster figure terrorising him. Slowly but surely interior and exterior worlds converge until he is a ball of rage standing on chairs screaming, ‘skin the beast!’. It’s both troubling and hilarious at the same time. Meanwhile Nelson, initially a ridiculously happy-go-lucky employee, is sacked – precipitating a descent into madness: he leaps around the room like a feral beast, soils himself and is egged on by former workmates to perform tricks.
The six performers, directed by Rebecca Frecknall, assuredly carry off the cruel heartlessness that breeds this derangement. Although oblique, Daniel skilfully sustains an ineffable terror long enough to engage you through to its violent climax.
A Wake, the second part of the duo, lacks the skill of its counterpart however: it’s an inchoate idea devised by the group itself, which points towards the same preoccupation with the eccentric but with less success.
The weird Roughton family, mourning their dead sibling Daisy, stand around offering perfunctory platitudes to the deceased in voices ironically borrowed from drawing room dramas of yesteryear. Interspersed with video of family members describing Daisy, we are presented with interesting ideas that are not woven into an effective whole. One of the visitors, Philip, is like a mysterious Pinter character but lacks a consistent follow through; the end result gives the impression that the company simply couldn’t decide what to do with him. The final revelation of a strange family in perpetual mourning limps by without much effect.
Despite a lop-sided evening in quality terms, Mutiny is well worth the initial foray into the workplace maelstrom, even if the homecoming to the eerie Roughton family lacks the same bite.