The Cut

Tue 4th – Sat 8th March 2014

reviews

Jenni Reid

at 12:51 on 5th Mar 2014

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Mark Ravenhill’s The Cut is an interesting but somewhat unsatisfying play. Moral questions are thrown up, dark events alluded to, intriguing characters introduced; but there is not quite enough substance behind the mystery to make the play something truly memorable. However a solid cast and excellent technical work make this production an enjoyable watch.

We do not find out when or where the strange events of The Cut unfold, save that they take place within an unfamiliar society ruled by a government which administers a horrifying procedure called ‘the cut’ on an unspecific group of its citizens. The play’s opening suggests it may be the twitchy and anxious John (Rose Reade) whose story we follow, but the unlikely main character instead turns out to be Paul (Alasdair McNab), a sinister bureaucrat whose initial composure slowly slips away over time. Paul is a terrifyingly volatile figure, and McNab draws this out brilliantly. During the first scene I thought he may have increased his intensity too soon, catching us by surprise with his booming shouts where perhaps the tension should have been developed slowly. However in fact his dramatic mood swings were one of the most interesting things about McNab’s performance, and he swung from self-assured to the brink of collapse within seconds. Meanwhile although he spent a lot of time shouting, his shouts were wonderfully nuanced, at times powerful and menacing, at others petulant and pathetic.

Similarly unpredictable was Aoife Kennan as Paul's wife, whose character was one minute sympathetic, the next intensely frustrating. Kennan had a fantastic stage presence and despite the frequent banality of her dialogue she held my attention more than any other character. The uncomfortable dynamic between husband and wife was electric, as was that between Paul and his son Stephen (Ed Elcock) in the final scene; I only wish the first scene had been as strong. This may well have been my personal bias - frankly I'm just not a fan of the Pinter-esque, enigmatic kind of dialogue which The Cut often employs - however since the rest of the play proved so effective, I did feel there was something missing here. Rose Reade played an interesting character who makes us want to know more about him/her, but didn’t quite captivate me during her longer monologue. The set also seemed less suited to the corporate office setting of John and Paul than the neat domestic world of Paul and his wife and the dark and ominous location of the final scene. The best moment of the opening was undoubtedly came right at the end as the scene comes to a climax, proving how effective good stage lighting can be by plunging the audience into darkness before an eerie coloured spotlight shone on the action. Lighting was a stand-out feature throughout the show, creating strange but beautiful silhouettes and shadows which complemented the atmosphere perfectly.

The Cut ticks all the boxes for a successful Corpus lateshow: a small and talented cast, an unusual, striking script, good technical backing. It may not have been quite suited to my tastes, but it is well worth a watch for those after a thought-provoking evening.

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