Neil LaBute sets out to upset and disturb audiences and he made a spectacular start with his first play Bash: Latterday Plays. Initially having Mormon connections, he later revised the work: it was no longer just a slanted assault on the Latter Day Saints, from which non-Mormons could exempt themselves, but instead became a universal statement of the human condition.

Bash is an extremely demanding work and a brave choice; both actors rise to the challenge.

Bash takes two scenes from the original is a trilogy. Ostensibly they are unrelated and the characters unconnected, yet they are united in the darkness of their outcomes and secrecy of the crimes committed.

Theaodora Mead, playing the woman, sits calmly on a chair and in casual, conversational style tells of the tangled relationship she endured with her high school teacher from the age of thirteen. It is matter-of-fact, even when relating her pregnancy and the difficulties she endured after she was abandoned by the father. This surprisingly unemotional treatment is perhaps a clue to the coldness of the ultimate act she will commit. When she eventually finds out where the father is living there is no suggestion as to what she will do when she takes her son to meet him. Indeed, despite all he has done she seems supportive of him, but notes that he has no children by his current marriage. The ending is an act of seemingly motiveless malignity and grotesque violence, but probably beneath the calculating softness that Theaodora Mead maintains throughout comes the fulfilment of the maxim that ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’.

The evening starts out well in the second piece as the actors come together as a couple to describe a posh party they attend. After Sue has gone to bed, John and his friends decide to take some fresh air in Central Park. Here they encounter a gay couple and then later see one of the men go downstairs to a toilet. John sets up the man’s demise. Alexander Doulerain Jr’s casual, almost glib handling of the text with its rationalisations makes its content all the more shocking. It is his prelude to a spine chilling conclusion in which he pours venomous verbal abuse on his victim and, seemingly as a man possessed, savagely beats and kicks him to death. Such is the vigour and passion of his performance that to watch is to be frightened, horrified and sickened. It is the dramatic highlight of the production and one of the few opportunities LaBute gives his actors to rise above simple storytelling.

Bash is an extremely demanding work and a brave choice by Sevenoaks School Theatre Company in which both actors rise to the challenge. They have no help in props or the set of just two chairs designed not to detract from the content of the play. Yet they each develop a style of storytelling that convincingly shows how seemingly ordinary people can do extraordinary things. That it can sometimes be hard work to sit through is part of LaBute’s intention and there were perhaps moments when something could have been done to provide some relief. While this play will not appeal to everyone, for aficionados of the playwright and the genre this production is well worth seeing.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

The essence of violence is difficult to catch. It’s present in every subdued breath, every word unsaid, every feeling unreciprocated. Extreme violence slithers deep down, and inverts every idol, every moral ‘truth’. In three stories, Neil LaBute sucks out the darkness and terror from the human soul, and breathes it onto the Latter-Day Saints of the Mormon community which he was part of. Performed in an intimate, in-the-round theatre in the centre of Edinburgh, the depths of human depravity will be staged.

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