13.00 (plus 19.00 show Friday)
£12 (including pie & pint)
Performed in the intimate space of Trav2, “Squash” by Martin McCormick is the story of a thief being caught in the act… On the surface at least. All the action takes place in Ma and Bald’s 18th floor flat, a messy living room where old Beano magazines are strewn all over the floor, and décor that would not look out of place in the 80’s. The cheap tacky pictures and ornaments which clutter the unit shelves, along with the vintage spin dial telephone would lead you to believe that this scene is set at least a couple of decades ago. However all is not what it seems.
The play begins with Bald (Keith Flemming) throwing bike thief Paul (Cristian Ortega) to the floor as Ma (Anne Lacey) watches on. We realises quickly that Bald suffers from severe intellectual disability which requires Ma to direct him through every single step of the interrogation. Bald is endearing from the word go, and Flemming captures the innocence and naivety of someone which such a mental affliction beautifully. He is instantly believable and never for a moment does he allow his performance to be generic, his portrayal is delightfully detailed and thought through.
Ma is very much in control of the situation, directing her son every step of the way through the play. She is stern, serious and downright intimidating. Throughout the play there is something bubbling under the surface to which the reasons are hinted at but never fully explained. Ma is on the periphery of madness herself but lucid enough to know how to control her boy. She is very distrustful and particularly suspicious of the “the ethnics” a suggestion that is made a few times throughout the play. Setting foot in Ma’s house is like stepping back in time, not only visually but in terms of her wariness of minorities. It is a very strong performance from Lacey who keeps the audience guessing with Ma’s fluctuations in mood and sanity throughout, assisted by the mystery white powder she takes to calm herself.
Paul is quiet and scared but gradually grows into the play as his character grows more confident/desperate. There is uncertainty about Paul as the play unfolds, on one hand he is adamant he did not steal Bald’s bike, but on the other he does not want to police to become involved. Again the performance is solid and without giving too much away there is some very nice variety throughout. Martin McCormick’s Squash is a rollercoaster that keeps you guessing throughout, shifting from hilarious to disturbing in a beat. These shifts are aided by the atmospheric sound design of Lewis Den Hertog and is enough to make you squirm in your seat. The collective excellence of the writing, sound design and performances on stage make this a truly immersive experience for the audience. By the end it has thrown up so many questions about the characters, their history and relationships you will be left debating with your friends in the bar for hours afterwards! FIVE STARS
Reviewer : James Garvock