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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Neil LaBute is a great one for double bluffing his audiences.

First performed off-Broadway in 1999, the American playwright's set of creeping one-act plays collectively known as Bash are three vicious left hooks to our high opinion of human nature.

First comes a Mormon salesman's confession of what must be the most unthinkable act for a father, which (James Le Feuvre nails with uneasy, unnerving insouciance.

The show then pitches head first into a gripping duologue, with Le Feuvre and a glacial Faye Winter as the young American couple telling the story of their road trip with a few friends to a posh party, a "bash" in the city.

The pair hold the rhythm of LaBute's sinister, lyrical writing effortlessly - which makes his vicious account of the boys' attack on a gay man while the girls are asleep all the more sickening.

The final piece of the night, Medea Rex, is where La Bute's mastery is clear - just when you think you've got the measure of how nice or nasty a character is, the rug is pulled out from under your assumptions.

Against the Baron's Court's black-painted cellar theatre with apocalyptic strips of red, Winter's young mother clad in a white institutional playsuit shines with the appeal of a bird in an oil slick.

In director Olivia Rowe's hands Bash remains as dark as you'd expect two pieces about infanticide and one of homophobia-motivated murder to be - but also taut and breathtaking.

- Vicky Ellis


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