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The Incomers (Bristol)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Murray Lachlan Young’s play is set in a Cornish cottage owned by a couple of ex- London ‘incomers’. It charts a visit by an old family friend, Zach, (who, we find out, is a city dealer high on cocaine) and his new girlfriend, Julia, a Burlesque dancer and philosopher. Well, she is French. The set is strangely un-cottage like, with rustic style furniture in a room with mirrored walls.

The themes of seduction, marital infidelity, and the troubled relationship between feral locals and the outsiders who move in to buy up the houses, make this something of a meeting between Abigail’s Party and Straw Dogs. The play often breaks out of naturalism and has some bold ideas. It occasionally breaks into rhyming verse couplets, going against the broadly comic tone elsewhere to paint a picture of Cornish fishermen as noble primitive hunters at one with a more authentic universe. As this is delivered by the buffoonish Gordon, it is hard to know how seriously we are supposed to take this, but either way, the characterisation of the (mainly offstage) Cornish folk is heavy handed and simplistic, and would probably not go down too well in Redruth.

The cast perform with high energy and the audience appreciate some comic moments. Sadly, the characters are too cartoonish for us to really care about their predicaments; there is little chemistry or believable interaction between them, the comedy is often overplayed and the whole piece is delivered at a relentlessly high pace with too little variation. Kirsty Osmond’s Julia offers some relief, and is a sultry, controlled and controlling presence in the prevailing mania, but her performance is undermined by her comedy French accent.

The play is ambitious, aiming in parts at important themes of cultural invasion, and there are some visual gags that earn laughs. It is, though, unclear throughout what the story’s focus is, and any points being made are lost in the frenzy of domestic black comedy. Someone needs to write a play that explores with honesty the take over of rural communities by urban outsiders, but unfortunately, this is not it.


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