A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Good Night Out Presents

A Butcher of Distinction



A new play by Rob Hayes

Directed by Ned Bennett

Cock Tavern Theatre
5 April 2011

King’s Head Theatre

10 - 24 April 2011


There are so many compelling themes in this strange, disturbing new play that it necessarily suggests much more than it can deliver in one hour. Hooray Henry twins Hartley (Ciarán Owens) and Hugo (Sam Swann) have come to London for the first time in the hope of finding something of value to sell among what is left of their father's things. Having killed their mother and himself with a shotgun leaving nothing but debt behind, their father seems to have delivered them to a squalid basement full of the worthless detritus of his perverted existence, where they will be enslaved by the violent pimp Teddy (Michael Gould) to pay off the quarter of a million pounds their father owes for services rendered. Hugo attracts Teddy's attention immediately, as the gentler, more trusting twin who has his father's good looks. Hartley is the older (by 10 minutes) more practical twin, looking so unlike his father that Teddy wonders if they are related at all. However, it is a wise child who knows his own father and Hartley puts what he learned from the sire he idolised to good use when the twins weirdly intense relationship is threatened by the grotesquely cruel and ultimately, heartless Teddy.

The play employs a combination of nervy humour alternated with stomach turning violence, hurtling inexorably to a gory denouement reminiscent of Martin McDonagh's highly successful West End productions. There is a powerful sense that something unspeakable lurks behind the twins' childish sibling rivalry and unnatural physical intimacy. Their country estate costumes and cut glass accents suggest sophistication, but what they say reveals the backwardness of yokels. They hug each other like babes in the wood, but the games they play are much grimmer than Grimm's Fairy Tales. Ciarán Owens and Sam Swann have achieved a natural, absorbing and convincing connection  which magically lifts them out of the tawdry surroundings simply but effectively conveyed by Fiona Russell's set, so that one thinks of Romulus and Remus or some other biblical or Shakespearean twins.

Apart from twins, there is the theme of value. Hartley declares that everything has a value and almost on cue, the odious Teddy appears to assess what their commodity value might be. Michael Gould's performance recalled the terrifyingly corrupt Michael Caine of Mona Lisa, but he is forced to look inwards by the mute, accusing Hugo in sheep's clothing, and his own hollow centre is revealed. Perhaps the country bumpkins have more in common with the city slicker than he could ever have imagined.

This is edgy, bracing work which demands attention. After the shocks of the performance, the audience is left with much to think about.

Sun 10 April... 12.30pm
April 13, 17, 18, 23... 7.30pm
Thurs 14 April...10.00pm
Sun 24 April... 3.00pm
Tickets: £12 / £10 concession
at the King's Head Theatre
115 Upper Street
Islington N1 1QN
0207 478 0160
Tube: Angel (Northern), Highbury & Islington
(Victoria & Overground)

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