Neil LaBute’s Bash: Latterday Plays is a disturbing trilogy where fresh-faced, churchgoing people share their stories of hideous crimes which they neither apologise for, nor appear to regret very much.
In Sarah McCann‘s set at the Old Red Lion Theatre, the very chairs scattered around the room seem to be sinking into the floor with shame, while the living souls in the room rattle away at speed, scarcely giving us time to take in their deeds before they have justified them to their own satisfaction.
Crisply directed by Jonathan O’Boyle (who worked on the Olivier-nominated Scottsboro Boys), the plays open with Iphigenia In Orem. Philip Scott-Wallace is entirely gripping as the young businessman who buttonholes a passing stranger to offload on to. Beneath the surface charm and sincerity, Scott-Wallace captures the ill-suppressed misogyny of this cruel father who murders his infant daughter to give himself "an edge" in the battle against redundancy at work.
Tom Vallen makes his chilling professional debut in A Gaggle of Saints. After six chaste years with his beloved, he encourages a man to kiss and caress him in a park toilet before unleashing a vicious attack and leaving him for dead. The rage, disgust – and burning curiosity – he feels over his glimpse into gay encounters is superbly expressed by Vallen.
His girlfriend, played by the bewitching Dani Harrison, is all complacency and misty-eyed emotion as she tells the counterpoint story of her night in with the girls. And credit is due to Harrison for finding the laughs in this dark tale.
Meanwhile in Medea Redux, the Cosmos itself is "opening up and laughing" at a young girl for becoming a mother at 14, by her adored, feckless teacher. Rebecca Hickey‘s delicately nuanced monologue is laden with horror but, as she points out, we’re only human, and as in all the best Greek tragedies, mortals are bound to fail and fall.
It’s small surprise that LaBute left the Mormon church after these one-act plays first appeared in 1999. They demonstrate how evil deeds can spring from the least expected people. It’s just that somehow, in Bash: Latterday Plays, these appalling people without conscience or heart are all, well, Mormons…