Chris Fittock’s debut play is ambitious in its obscurity. It’s hard to work out, and harder to know if it’s going to be worth your while. Red has just returned from a war, apparently traumatised by the experience, though in the abstract world conjured by the play it’s not clear what might have been considered normal. He jousts verbally with Val, an eerily maternal former lover, who reminds him that the war came here too. Red is not the only one to be traumatised.
The language is somewhere between the rural lyricism of DH Lawrence and the post-apocalyptic childish jabber of Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome. ’‘S you cuttin’ fruit?’ Val asks Red repeatedly, underlining her dependence on him, but she has the upper hand when it comes to language, expressing the moral authority of the female victim of war. Such is the dynamic of their tortured relationship, which is also haunted by another woman who will not appear till towards the end of the play.
For much of the play, Red (Mark Wood) sits to the right of the stage, his face largely obscured by his fringe, so the audience’s attention is focused on Val (Lucia Cox), who must keep our interest by hinting at some kind of story which never really emerges. Red is indeed cutting fruit, a durian in fact, which smells’a sex, or shit, depending on whose version you prefer. There is much talk of how the fruit grows and whether it’s safe to eat, suggesting a disrupted pattern of rural life.
By the time the other woman Amy (Simone Holmes) appears, however, such ideas, along with dark musings on the horrors of war, have largely given way to the overwhelming sexual confusion to which she has contributed. She tangles with a nervous Red, and it becomes clear that their relationship is no more wholesome or hopeful than that between Red and Val, though in this case it may be largely his fault. Love is war, love is trauma, that sort of thing.
Red was developed by LLT, Liverpool’s new writing theatre, and performed in Liverpool and Glasgow before coming to London. All three performances by the cast are compelling in different ways, but Fittock’s play is more bemusing than poetic, perhaps not helped by a minimalist set design that is only gradually and partially filled out by the script.
Till 24 June 2006.