The Degenerates

In a dystopian future society where all homosexuals are 'rehabilitated' by being forced to have straight sex in a sinister hostel, one man and one woman do a lot of shouting in Ribcaged Productions' performance of Jonathan Shipman's The Degenerates. The idea is worthy and potentially interesting, but sadly this production itself degenerates into a blur of sound, serving as a perfect example of why starting at the highest pitch of tension is a bad idea in theatre; left with nowhere else to go, the actors stay at one note of bewildered aggression and frankly, it's a little tough on the ears. 'You're being a little dramatic', Marcus says to Beth at one particular moment of conflict – there were so many, I've forgotten which – and in doing so summarises the flaw of the entire hour-long piece. The script, though definitely too densely packed, has moments of clarity amid all its totalitarianism-for-dummies bluster, and would have benefited hugely from a little more light and shade. Neither of the performances are themselves awful, but something has clearly gone awry in the transition from page to stage, meaning that the production never takes any space to breathe and put its point across in more measured tones. A few gentler moments made this apparent – a dark final twist adds much-needed nuance, and when the couple open a useful cabinet to reveal a feather boa and a gimp mask, the pain and anguish of the whole situation segued nicely into an amused tenderness and I hoped things would stay that way; but soon enough, someone was angry at someone else again. Ultimately this lack of respite made the production unfulfilling, an hour of unsatisfactory foreplay that was too single-minded to ever quite hit the spot.

Reviews by Richard O'Brien

The Blurb

Outcasts from the rigid society of another world, perfect strangers are forced to consummate a relationship in an unfamiliar bedroom. Filled with desire and powerful emotions, Jonathan Shipman's play questions our pursuit of love, control and freedom.