Have you had the experience of sitting through a play and thinking, “If I’d known that was how it was going to end I’d have paid far more attention to all the details in the script”? It’s often followed by, “I’d love to see it again now I know how it ends”. Sniff at Theatre503 is one of those.
Fascinating, exciting, gripping and chilling
Here is an outwardly very simple play that has traditional theatre elements, while exuding modernity. It has a plot and a storyline that becomes increasingly mysterious, complex and riveting as it gradually unfolds. It is serious, yet full of well-timed humour; its sequel could be a fascinating detective drama, for in the play all the evidence needed for the investigation is laid bare, except at the time we don’t realise it. It takes place in real time, yet has flashbacks that inform and enhance the current situation. It’s clever, claustrophobic and comic, full of surprises and not anything you might anticipate from the information given about it.
The play’s location is a pub in a fictional small city on the outskirts of London. Alex has arranged to meet his girlfriend there. His intention is to propose to her. He arrives with the ring and sets up the table with a bottle of bubbly and some geraniums. He is very nervous and might even lack the courage to go ahead with it. None of this is shown but is revealed in conversation with Liam whom he meets when he decides to visit the toilet before she arrives, which is where the action of the play is set.
The pub is Liam’s local. He knows everyone there and seems particularly at home in this extremely insalubrious gentleman’s room. He has two major addictions: online gambling and cocaine which he snorts and generously shares with Alex. He has his reasons for the latter. Hence he is more than hard-up with accumulated debts, having frittered away what little he ever had on his vices. His laddish speech, dress and manner are in marked contrast to Alex’s suited and booted appearance that matches his elevated position in advertising. Alex has a top job; Liam has odd-jobs.
Do they know each other? Have they met before? Has Alex forgotten or would he rather not remember? Whatever the case Liam seems to know more about Alex than might be expected from a coincidental encounter in a toilet. Liam dominates the situation and how he draws Alex into an unexpected world that makes fascinating, exciting, gripping and chilling theatre.
The play is by Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson who also plays Liam. Alex is played by Felix Grainger and the role of Bloke, who pops in for as long as it takes to piss, is taken by director Ben Purkiss. They are all part of Make It Beautiful Theatre Company, a London-based collective with a passion for dark comedy. Collectively they know their stuff. Two commanding performances are sustained for the sixty-five minutes running time, with each actor establishing character from the outset that encapsulates their contrasting circumstances and statuses in life. Purkiss, meanwhile, makes excellent use of the tight space with movement that enhances the dialogue and demonstrations of power and control.
The Company has one 5-star hit show, The CO-OP, under its belt already. This premier night performance suggests that with a few tweaks they are well on their way to another. It's a production not to be sniffed at.