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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Set on a South East London council estate, Gutted follows the romantic lives of the Prospect brothers and their mother Bridie (Louise Jameson).

While newly signed footballer Matthew (James Farrar) struggles to come to terms with the sexual abuse that his late father subjected him to, Mark (Frankie Fitzgerald) starts his own family with a hot-tempered woman. While Luke (Jamie Nichols) is determined to fall in love with a pre-op transsexual, John (Gavin McCluskey) turns to Islam following a stint in prison. All the while, Bridie supports them, earning her sons’ continued respect and offers them a hearty helping of realism every time they make a poor decision.

It’s as much a play about relationships as it is about unrealised dreams, and it’s all the better for treating both subjects with sensitivity. Through a series of fast-paced dialogues, flashbacks and reenactments, Rikki Beadle-Blair exposes a harsh side of London, allowing his audience to understand – if not empathise – with the Prospect boys.

Beadle-Blair is an exciting writer and director. While displaying childhood photographs of the Prospect boys on three television screens at the back of the stage reek of GCSE Drama, most of his ideas work. Keeping most of the actors on stage at all times, with footballer Mark often running, ensures that the play retains pace. Likewise, surrounding the stage with mirrored walls adds a sense of urgency to the play’s more aggressive scenes and intensity to its quieter ones. And using ringtones to reflect the boys’ personalities is a nice touch too.

The pace of Gutted is, at times, too fast. Although it’s a sad play, parts of it are funny. Sadly, Beadle-Blair doesn’t give his audience enough time to understand his jokes, laugh and get ready for whatever comes next. Lucy (Jennifer Daley) telling Matthew, "When I was 13, I gave my uncle a blowjob for tickets to see Take That" is simultaneously disgusting, hilarious and very sweet. The audience just needs more than two seconds to work out its reaction before it faces another fight scene or shocking confession.

Louise Jameson must be commended for her performance as the boys' ever-realistic mother. Her closing monologue, in which she explains that when a mother's children don't achieve their potential, "You ain’t embarrassed, you’re fucking heartbroken" made me cry.

Yes, it’s needlessly crude at times. But watching Gutted will make you understand the mentality of a group of brothers who don’t think twice about landing a “queer” in intensive care, but spend their lottery winnings on taking their mother out to lunch. And I suspect that was its intention.

-Tabatha Leggett


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