**** "Dark" doesn't begin to describe Anthony Neilson's plays
This two-hander about a disintegrating relationship is in familiar, graphic, disconcerting Neilson territory.
Stu and Abby are breaking up. We see a number of scenes on a timeline that jumps back and forth: scenes of prostitution, of prolonged, aggressive sexual encounters, of bickering over a Relate questionnaire, of deciding what to do about a pregnancy; scenes of intimacy and of awkward distance.
As the picture builds up, it paradoxically disintegrates as well. We're no longer certain whether the pair met when Abby was a student selling her body to make ends meet, or whether that's a fantasy they acted out to keep them together after a rough patch; nor whether they're discussing a second pregnancy some or all of the time, or the one which produced their son who subsequently died. It's a patchwork picture that is stitched together, as the echoes of the song from Bagpuss reverberate eerily through the proceedings.
The language is direct and forthright, and even without portraying them, the mere discussion of various acts is made harrowing. Neilson specialises in violations of intimacy, in flaying relationships to the bone, and we are both exhilarated by his dissections and disconcerted both by the events portrayed and by our own responses to them.
Written for divento.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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