Fear, which marks the stage debut of the experienced documentary filmmaker Dominic Savage, is an interesting rarity: an angry play that is almost embarrassingly feeble.
It’s the kind of schematic, confrontational class warfare drama which might strike you as lively and promising in a schools, or youth drama, context - where it would also seem more authentic - but which shrivels in the spotlight at an establishment fringe venue.
Two worlds collide: that of a restless street hoodlum, Kieran (Aymen Hamdouchi), whose mother is goading him into getting out of bed and going to the job centre; and of sleek investment banker Gerald (Rupert Evans) whose wife Amanda (Louise Delamere) is pregnant.
“I like the buzz of the fear in your eyes in the alley,” says one to the other, deriding his “Weybridge” lifestyle, his Porsche and any other clothing or accessory label that blurs his vision. Mind you, even the wife is on the case, asking Gerald if they couldn’t live “on a little less” when he’s completed a £12m deal.
The characters are ciphers, the writing skinny, without being tight or elliptical, the air full of portentousness - Ed Clarke’s sound design is a banked down fiery furnace - with Jason Maza’s fairly funny hoodie “bruv” dancing attendance on Kieran’s hooligan.
But the rumble in the inner city jungle is just an extension of the name calling and label identification in the build-up. The violence is tastefully done with a flood of red lighting on the under-lit floor. And by this time, the short 80-minute play has lasted for ever.
Designer takis has wrapped the four pillars in what looks like baking foil and supplied some brutal white furniture. This suits the anodyne, prescriptive nature of the proceedings - “it’s life on the estates, innit” - and makes something like Mike Leigh’s Mean Time resemble a richly analytical Homeric epic (which, in a way, it is).
The conclusion is a sentimental cop-out, triggered by totally unconvincing character development on two fronts. Savage has written a late-night series of half-hour films (screened last week), True Love, which have their stylish moments and a commendably starry cast list (David Morrissey, David Tennant, Billie Piper), but their prominence in the schedules underlines the overall sorry state of television drama. At the Bush, Fear eats the soul only as a disappointing blip on the new theatre writing radar.