Dennis Kelly, the brilliant dramatist almost taking the British
theatre by stealth, has an important new play at the Traverse despite
the familiarity of its themes of incipient incest, racist violence and
parturition (to have, or have not, babies).
You do sometimes wonder whether playwrights inhabit the same world
as us, or a creative limbo where you write plays on the hot topics. But
Kelly is a master of suspense, half-finished sentences that convey full
meaning, buried aggravation and sexual ambiguity. In this play he
sounds more like a Pinter disciple than ever. Roxana Silbert’s
production is two hours of high excitement, needlessly (and somewhat
damagingly), interrupted by an interval.
Helen (Claire-Louise Cordwell) is married to Danny (Jonathan
McGuinness) but closer to her brother Liam (Joe Armstrong), who turns
up covered in blood. The siblings’ parents died in a fire.
It’s hell out there, and smoke is billowing around the edges of
Garance Marneur’s appropriately banal floral wall-papered grey
interior. A boy has been assaulted, “some Islamic man on his way home”
has run into trouble and Helen and Danny are locking horns over the
It’s compelling, disturbing stuff, and Kelly doesn’t flinch from
making his characters thoroughly dislikeable. The show’s a notable
collaboration between the Traverse, Birmingham Rep and Paines Plough.
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