A review by Richard J Thornton for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

Epsilon Productions presents

 

Extremities

Written by William Mastrosimone

Directed by Rob Stuart

Courtyard Theatre

 

8 – 27 March 2011

 

Extremities is a disturbing piece in a way that transcends its ostensible theme of rape to question the way morality is viewed in the light of questionable personalities. The play interrogates how friendships fray in potentially life-destroying circumstances, and the power of calculated manipulation versus the apparent insanity caused by the shock of outrageous physical abuse.

The gripping opening scene sets the stakes - an intruder forces himself onto Marjorie in her own home, attempting rape before being sprayed in the eyes with wasp killer by his potential victim. Suddenly, attacker becomes the attacked as the rapist is blindfolded, bound, and caged into a fireplace. When Marjorie’s housemate Terry returns, Marjorie’s anger and fear at her near-rape has mutated into a violent insanity - she wants to murder the assailant and bury him in the garden. It’s an extreme twist which explores the satisfaction of immediate retribution as opposed to the lazy judicial system. A system which, ironically, the rapist has convinced Marjorie will see him out of prison in a handful of years, free to finish what he started. The rapist’s persuasion is so adept that he soon convinces Terry that he didn’t attempt rape at all, and that the girls are about to get in more trouble than he is. The situation worsens when psychiatrist Pat comes home and tries to ‘scientifically’ deduce the facts of the dilemma while patronising everyone.

This is a script of complex psychological manipulation which exposes the dangers of judging situations on preconceptions rather than moral instinct. However, it feels as if Rob Stuart has pushed the extremes too far. Pat is too blunt in her condescending appraisal, and the rapist, Raul, too whiny – despite thunderbolt acting from John Schumacher. The script is rich but delicate; it provides theatrical juice for all four characters, but isn’t prepared to be stretched so far. The result is a play which you want to engage with, but which repels an audience through crass melodrama and just-too unbelievable interaction.

More credit to the actors though, as John Schumacher is superb. His balance between ferocity and vulnerability is masterful, and only marred by his (or the director’s) propensity to push the character into farce. Kas Darley’s strict-postured Pat is well-pitched as well. and Hannah Dean’s mousey Terry is passive aggressive. Angela Bull gives a confused performance as the anti-heroine Marjorie. Her opening feels distracted and unspecific, but she matures into the role as and when her character demands.

In a play which continually asks for a suspension of disbelief, it’s no surprise that the set follows suit. Quite where Marjorie finds a wrought-iron bed head to imprison the rapist with, is a sticking point, but not so much as the awkward set changes, especially after the interval when Schumacher has to crawl back into the fireplace while Marjorie re-sets the grate. Jessamy Willson-Pepper’s set itself is natural and sound though, and provides a rich and comfortable backdrop to juxtapose the intensity of the action against.

If this production had a little more faith in the script, and a little less weighty direction, it may be been a pinch more palatable. Perhaps a more claustrophobic setting than the vacuous studio space at the Courtyard would have taken some pressure off the director to fill the spaces between viewer and actor, and script could’ve worked its magic to a more extreme effect.

 

 

 

Box Office: 020 7729 2202 / www.thecourtyard.org.uk
Courtyard Theatre
40 Pitfield St
Hoxton
N1 6EU
8 – 27 March at 7.30pm
Tickets: £14/12
 


Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved