Saturday, 10 October 2009

Shooting Rats - Lillian Bayliss Old School Hall, London

Shooting Rats
By Peter Turrini and Willard Manus

Director: Rachel Briscoe
Reviewer: Honour Bayes

People often find unwanted things at tips and reincarnate them. Chairs, desks, board games, children’s bikes; entire houses are reborn to a new life. Hopeful places then? Not it would seem for Ads and Evie whose rebirth at a rubbish dump has a sadly lifeless ending. The world certainly isn’t all sunshine and rainbows but surely there’s more to it than just ‘shit and sex and shit and porn’? Maybe I’m just a dreamer, but I not I’m the only one (thanks John). One definite non-dreamer is Peter Turrini, whose play Shooting Rats is a darkly anarchic look at a couple kicking out angrily against social expectations and capitalist money gods, and who chose ultimately to totally opt out.

Ads has taken Evie to the dump on a first date. She is all fake blond curls and undulating hips, he is still with bursts of violence and a panache for plain talking jabs. Slowly as they chat they begin to unravel the hard social lining that surrounds them, until they are revealed for what they are in all their nakedness.

Like all idealists at first their journey is intoxicating, as one by one they are stripped of all the material things that bind them. Throwing away first the junk in their bags, progressing to photos, fags and then to wallets, store cards, finally money (which is a massive wrench) and ultimately to belongings with personal meaning; each step taking them one inch further away from society and into the stillness of the dump. It is easy to get carried away along with them, but to where? I didn’t fancy the wordless place they ended up in.

Rachel Briscoe has cleverly soaked Turrini’s Austrian play in a British urban context making for a vibrant and completely contemporary text but although Fanshen’s physical stamp is clear at the whirling beginning and biblical end it is markedly absent from the rest of this piece. Peter Bray and Sarah Savage circle one another in this undoubtedly epic space, but seem too entrapped in their own natural postures to fully take advantage of it. Maybe this is indicative of their characters’ frustration at the world that controls them, but it is a waste of their evident talents and made for a static and fractured production. Disappointingly either words or movement ruled at any one time with the ever present potential for the two to coexist never materialising.

Shooting Rats’ marketing calls it a ‘defiant drama’ and it certainly is that, but what does it posit as an alternative? Ads is an angry young man, but in the tradition of Jimmy Porter, this aggression is not used to change but only to rant and then in an unfocused climax to destroy both himself and the others around him. Is this couple setting themselves free or just running away from a world they can’t handle? Like a wordless scream, Ads and Evie’s journey is impassioned and emotive but ultimately impotent to anyone but themselves. Turrini called it a ‘desperate attempt at self-cleansing’ and writing the piece was clearly therapeutic for him, but is it for anyone else? With such a dark ending and no hope in sight it is hard to see what we have learned apart from that the world is just ‘s**t and sex and s**t and porn’ and that’s not enough for me. Rip up and tear down yes, but re-build too.

Runs untill 24 Oct
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