**** Surreal, darkly haunting drama of love and upheaval
Gary Owen has created a world where winners and losers are literally different species, and extermination is afoot.
At first it feels rather like the background to Wallace Shawn's play The Designated Mourner, as the mediocre rise up in arms against the privileged and talented. But this four-handed tale of a world in which "radiance" is a communicable disease grows far more complex. When the "clumsy... mean-spirited... cowardly" of the world begin the annihilation of the "radiant", relics from the latter – hair, teeth – become prized on the black market for communicating this mysterious quality. Which, in turn, generates more victims, as it becomes harder to declare definitively who is one or the other.
The class aspect of this remarkable dramatic poem is pointed up by the characters' names – Tara and Julian are "radiant", Darren and Kelly are lumpen. Ideas of persecution and shelter, of rescue and remaking both intentional and accidental, whirl together in Vicky Featherstone's fine production for Paines Plough, almost like a strangely psychedelic, sci-fi version of Sarah Kane's Crave. Among the performers, Eileen Walsh as ever combines charm and weirdness, this time adding outright menace to the mix.
Written for divento.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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