3-4 Picton Place, London
Philip Ridley's play caused a storm (and no shortage of walkouts) during its premiere at the Chocolate Factory in 2005, largely due to the involvement of a child actor in scenes alluding to torture and sexual abuse.
Watching this revival by Theatre Delicatessen, staged fittingly in a derelict office block in central London, is therefore rather like watching a repeat of Clockwork Orange - an awareness and expectation of the violence to come inevitably lessens its impact (there were certainly no walkouts this time round).
The play presents a dystopian vision of society brought to its knees by a plague of butterflies, centring on two brothers - paternal Elliot (Matt Granados) and dimwitted Darren (Chris Urch) - who organise 'parties' to satisfy the violent fantasies of wealthy guests.
As it becomes apparent that they and their disparate associates are trapped on the verge of armageddon, the sense of hopelessness manifests itself in a kind of nihilistic hedonism. There are resonances here with everything from the Black Death to Abu Ghraib, from Sophocles to Sarah Kane, and the narrative is dense with subtext.
Frances Loy's production is not wanting for atmosphere. The rundown location, which is accessed via a fire escape, is an apposite choice, even if the makeshift seating grows fairly uncomfortable after an interval-free two hours. The dim lighting adds to the atmosphere but in truth is a little too gloomy considering the action takes place in daylight, making it quite a strain for the eyes as well as the posterior.
There are several stand-out performances. Matt Granados captures both the intelligence and fatal subservience of Elliot, while Debra Baker has great fun with the Duchess, a blind cockney songstress whose grip on reality has long gone awol. Ben Wigzell makes for a threatening and authoritative 'Papa' Spinx, the alpha male weary of making all the decisions.
And credit too to young Jack Sweeney, who makes for a compelling 'Party Piece' - the boy whose degradation and torture is on sale to the highest bidder (who turns out to be a city boy with a Vietnam fixation).
This is not comfortable viewing, in any sense, and its final message, that mankind's only hope is to find a "more friendly planet", is far from hopeful. But there's no shortage of black humour to grease the wheels, and much promise in this young company.