Various media have opted for sex as the defining theme of this year's Fringe, and a number of the shows I've been able to see are characterised by a clear-eyed recognition of the darker corners of sexual practice. If there's a general message, it might be this: we are all deviants now. Anthony Neilson's Stitching is perhaps the starkest show that I've encountered so far for examination of the non-vanilla, and passages of the writing approach the visceral intensity of Sarah Kane. It takes a while, deliberately, for the piece's chronology to become apparent, but in linear view it deals with the effect of the lives of young couple Stu and Abby when an unexpected pregnancy forces them to reassess the way they relate to each other. If you think this sounds like a light rom-com, then please stop thinking it and get very far away if you don't like the thought of needles. Later scenes show a bleak degeneration of their former love into a prostitute-and-client fantasy, and one of my main criticisms of the production would be that these decent young actors are far from convincing as an older, much more broken version of their characters. Stu in particular never really musters the brutal masculine energy that his lines as a customer for violent sex would seem to demand. In terms of writing, the piece seems to end several terms before its actual conclusion; as the first of these prospective endings is such a stunning visual image the rest of the text seems almost redundant. One later image is equally, powerfully brutal, but if Neilson had had the confidence to integrate that scene a little earlier and leave a little more unsaid this might have made for a punchier production. That said, it's almost worth seeing for the central visual trick alone.

Reviews by Richard O'Brien

The Blurb

A guy, a girl, a rocky relationship, a pregnancy and some sleepless nights. Stu and Abby attempt to knock down and rebuild their lives together, 'stitch by painful stitch', in this revival of Anthony Neilson's beautifully disastrous play.