Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Fastest Clock in the Universe – The Curve, Leicester

The Fastest Clock in the Universe
Writer: Philip Ridley
Director: Edward Dick
Reviewer: David Noble

One cannot fail to notice the Hitchcockian influence on The Fastest Clock in the Universe. Indeed, main protagonist Cougar Glass lives in a flat that contains a stuffed bird collection that Norman Bates would have envied. Yet these animals, rather than merely being the proud collection of an antiques dealer, represented instead the nihilism at the core of this performance. Philip Ridley creates an unsettling picture of one man’s quest to remain at the age of nineteen, and the appalling turpitude of his narcissistic attempts to maintain his youthful façade.

The action takes place in the rooms above an old furrier’s factory, and details the events of the umpteenth nineteenth birthday party of Cougar Glass. He is a man whose fear of wrinkles, and desire to remain on the cusp of manhood and responsibility, influences his every objective in life. This is a motivation which is extremely prevalent in modern society, but Ridley expertly twists this basic longing to look good into Cougar’s abhorrence of his age and his almost primal urge to be young again. The constant references to the cruelty of the fur trade express Ridley’s key thesis that Cougar is no different from the taxidermy mounted on the walls, perfect on the outside, yet with no personality or redeeming characteristics. The ideas portrayed are a sad, yet thought-provoking, indictment of our self-absorbed society.

However, whilst the concept of The Fastest Clock in the Universe was solid, the dialogue was not without flaw. Yes, there was the occasional beautifully opulent metaphor, and wonderfully engaging story; but one felt that, especially in first act, the conversation between characters was somewhat stilted.

Nevertheless, there were no such flaws in Mark Thompson’s marvellously intricate stage design, where the floorboards even squeaked underfoot! The clever implementation of a window, with curtain, allowed the lighting (as devised by Rick Fisher) to be cleverly disguised as moonlight and duly created a tense atmosphere.

Bearing in mind the cast comprised of exactly five people, it was an exceptional performance. Finbar Lynch was particularly outstanding in the role of the eccentric Captain Tock. He revelled as the play’s voice of reason, and although all the actors were accomplished, his timing and delivery was pitch-perfect throughout. Credit too must go to Jaime Winstone for her portrayal of the fantastically named Sherbet Gravel, as she took what could have been a unbelievably clichéd character and made it her own, intertwining humour and tragedy seamlessly.

The strange allure of this performance is that it seems better upon reflection. Ridley raises some intriguing ideas, and he leaves one pondering postmodernist notions; yet the play is at times disturbing, and is thus a difficult watch so to speak. In addition, there is an absence of a character with whom the audience can relate, and though the concepts are meant to be challenging, it is hard to become lost in the story, which definitely detracted from what was a provocative piece. Indeed, The Fastest Clock in the Universe is a rare case of the morning after being better than the night before!

Runs until November 14th.
frontpage hit counter