The Sluts of Sutton Drive by new writer Joshua Conkel is a dark portrait of your regular dysfunctional American family: addicted mother; troubled teenager; dead father. Throw in unhinged mailman, neglected boyfriend, and sexually-charged best friend and you have a perfect depiction of the wonderfully insane residents of Sutton Drive.
Georgia Buchanan plays Stephanie, the tired, overwhelmed mother of a pubescent son who works on a checkout. Stephanie continually battles the intense embarrassment she feels her life has become. Buchanan brings an energy and warmth to a character who is funny, naive, on edge, and yearning for a different life. There is some lovely work from each actor, which whilst sometimes edging on caricature, never feels false or laboured.
The arrival of a rapist on Sutton Drive prompts drastic action. Whilst it wouldn’t be fair to reveal the surprises that unfold - and there are some corkers - it is safe to say that there is much black comedy amongst the horrors that await.
But the most compelling dimension is the palpable loneliness, need, and compassion between the characters, and the different types of love that radiate within each relationship. “People need someone to depend on”, the gawky mailman states (played with easy, freakish fervour by Matt Steinberg). This truth is evident here.
The set is dressed perfectly for the production: empty bottles lie strewn around the stage; a tattered sofa provides a rock upon which much of the action takes place; a beigey carpet quickly acquires stains of blood; and Stephanie’s hair, books, magazines, yoga DVDs, and ironing litter the rest of the room. It’s realistic and depressing.
Perhaps the most memorable elements of the show are the bold choices of director Rebecca Atkinson-Lord. There are moments of genius which highlight the melodrama of the various pickles in which the characters find themselves, ham up the genre, and poke fun at these exaggerated Americans. It works wonders by breaking the tension, and checking in with the audience to make sure we’re still with them - and we are, all the way to the end.