The rear wall of this theatre is a bare brick chimney-breast, a gift for the tone of this piece spare and austere, suggesting a war-torn country perfectly. Red is sitting motionless against it in a dirt yard as the audience arrive, projecting perfectly the air of a recently-returned, war-damaged boy. He stays there while all late comers are seated, and then some, never moving a muscle. When all is quiet, he comes to life, but very subtly, announcing his presence by the merest eye movement and flexing of his shoulders.
As the action begins, his first dialogue is carried on through the open door of the house. It stays like this for 30 minutes, Red on-stage by himself and Val off-stage. We see their twisted love in action, a verbal war of attack and counter-attack to match the real one which has brutalised their country and them. Its all about power and dominance, shifting back and forth in an evenly-matched contest. It leads them repeatedly to the brink of separation, only for one or the other to relent.
They have also lost their perspective on human life all this happens with a corpse in the house, and they just see it as further ammunition to hurl at each other.
Chris Fittocks script is described in the programme as hypnotically poetic, and it surely is. It makes skilful use of rhythm and repetition to build and sustain the mood of the piece. Its also delivered superbly at rapid-fire pace, especially by Jeremy Pike, who also directs.
I was expecting great things on my first visit to this venue (Nicky Haydn is the Fringe Report Theatre Manager of the Year 2007) and I wasnt disappointed. An upstairs room has been transformed into a small, but cosy theatre. She has also nurtured this production through difficult times, including the loss of the original lead, so her award is well-deserved.