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Shooting Rats

By • Off-West End
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“What is rubbish?” is the central question posed by this new version of a 1967 play by Austrian playwright Peter Turrini, directed by Dan Barnard and Rachel Briscoe. A boy and girl turn up for a date at a desolate rubbish tip in Bromley, South London (each production of the play has to be specific to its location) and proceed to strip away, literally, the artifice of modern life and modern relationships.

Years ago Michael Barrymore had an act where he picked on a random female member of the audience and emptied her handbag, item by item. It was excruciatingly embarrassing for the lady in question (the inevitable pack of three made an appearance) but somehow passed as good-humoured entertainment. The same procedure takes place between the two protagonists of this play, but in this case the object is not the humour of embarrassment but a metaphorical exercise in the evaluation (or devaluation) of society.

Evie (Sarah Savage) considers herself to be “a lady” and would much rather be wined and dined in a smart restaurant in Notting Hill, but her date, Ads (Peter Bray), chooses to bring her to his special private place, where he shoots rats for relaxation, and challenges her to liberate herself by throwing away everything she doesn’t really need. The script is overly burdened with metaphor, sags under the weight of its own importance, and would flounder horribly halfway through but for the strength of the performances. Savage is mesmerising as Evie, capturing all the pert frowstiness of a girl on a night out who doesn’t want to appear too cheap, while Bray embodies the weary complacency of a young man who questions everything but has the answer to nothing.

A particular oddity is that when it comes to discarding not just their credit cards, jewellery and cash, but their clothes as well, they are both revealed as sporting very ungainly, mottled body suits with built-in flab. Is this to signify the imperfection of everything, even beautiful youth, or simply a device to prevent them spending the last fifth of the play stark naked? At least it allows the actors to ritualise the culmination of their relationship in a beguiling and exciting form of free dance.

The acoustics of a former school hall are unhelpful to the evening, but these two performances have an immediacy and a naturalness that override all other concerns.

Giles Cole



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