Rarely does the stage premiere of a work take place twenty-three years after it was written, but Out Of Bounds Theatre has claimed the honour with their gritty production of 44 Inch Chest by David Scinto and Louis Mellis at theSpace on Northbridge. The play received an initial reading but never made it to the theatre before being adapted into a screenplay of the 2009 film featuring Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, and John Hurt.
Its uncomfortable ugliness generates a curious fascination that makes it ultimately enjoyable.
Successful car salesman Colin Diamond (Liam Willat) discovers that his wife Liz (Holly McLachlan) is having an affair. He is experiencing a nervous breakdown and in the best tradition of East End gangsters his friends have convinced him to kidnap his wife's lover. As the play opens they are musing on the fate of Loverboy (Simon Burke), the unfortunate man who has turned their mate into a cukcold, and encourage Colin to torture and kill him. It’s a succinct storyline and apart from providing food for thought on what the outcome will be, the appeal of the play is in the mocking, intense dialogue and the surrealist departure contained within it.
Willat gives the detached performance becoming a person dealing with loss, but doesn’t lose his close ties to the thuggish world he normally occupies. McLachlan provides a dramatic contrast and perhaps unlikely partner to him, for the most part unnervingly calm and well spoken. There are also clear distinctions between those who form the criminal bunch. Lee Barden as Old Man Peanut portrays a particularly hardened individual with a sense that his own form of justice must be done. David Guy’s Mal, meanwhile, is the bloodthirsty man of action who for a price, or even as favour, would slit a throat or fire a gun before breakfast. Harvey Seymour gives his sidekick, Archie, a suitably subordinate demeanour within the double act that establishes the nature of their relationship. Jake Williams relishes being Meredith, the incongruous gay boy in the mob, who tauntingly flaunts his luck in both the casino and the bedroom, where who knows what his sinister inclinations might conjure up. As for Loverboy, well he’s rather tied up and has no chance to say anything, but Burke does it convincingly.
The language is excessively foul and much of the imagery gruesome, but once inured to that the initial shock subsides into an acceptance that this is the norm amongst the protagonists. It’s not a pleasant piece, but under Simon Burke’s direction, its uncomfortable ugliness generates a curious fascination that makes it ultimately enjoyable.