Break Point Theatre’s production ‘Flush’, offered a misleading title for a show boasting some really strong elements. The title implies a play about gambling. Even the programme included an essay on the impact of gambling addiction to our modern society. Despite several poker scenes, and a lot of shuffling about with playing cards, this did not seem to be what the play was about. None of the characters seemed to have an ‘addiction’ and the eventual fallout (the rape and murder of a young girl) seemed to be motivated more by the characters’ violent sexual fantasies and drug fuelled antics, than anything else. The play is more a nod to ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ than a gambling addiction tale.
The play packs a hard punch and, at times, is very difficult to watch. This is not a cosy night in at the theatre: The show offers highly sexualised depictions of City boy esq debauchery complete with drug taking, at least three simulations of oral sex and a brutal rape scene. It’s ‘in your face theatre’ but not entirely at its best. The execution was not as slick as it could have been.
The main problem lies with the play itself. As a writer, David Dipper creates some edgy & darkly humorous dialogue. However, the confusing, nonlinear narrative made the storyline difficult to decipher. At times I found myself lost as to what was happening. Some tighter direction could have helped as actors were sometimes left appearing to be aimlessly wandering about the stage.
Strong performances were the highlight. Grant Reeves, as the psychopathic, ‘Patrick Bateman’ esq ‘Cupid’ and Shane Wheeler, who provided the most multi-layered characterisation as ‘Charlie’, are exciting young actors. Reeves’ psychotic menace was both compelling & terrifying, making the play incredibly hard to watch (and I mean that in a good way).
Wheeler makes the dialogue zing with darkly comic aplomb. The best scene of the play (also the best of Alex Chang’s direction) saw his character ‘Charlie’, high on drugs, sporting nothing but his pants and a pair of Union Jack Socks.
All the actors bring touching moments of real emotion to otherwise highly unlikeable people. These are vile human beings and the actors play them with relish. Disappointingly the women were short changed. The only two female roles were bland and underwritten, serving no other function than as a token ‘sexually frustrated, slightly neurotic’ girlfriend’ and a ‘party girl’ rape victim. Both actresses did well with what they had and are to be applauded for their courage to show such vulnerability with the material.
I’d be interested to see how the play settles into the run. Perhaps because it was press night, the show had a nervy jittery start. This could also be due to a last minute recast of one actor, only 11 days ago. Its testimony to the strength of the cast that I could not tell who this late addition was – all seemed to be on the same playing field. Whilst there were moments of brilliance from the actors, I never really felt they fully had hold of the material. Perhaps they would have been helped if the play had a cohesive arc and a clear objective. I am still unsure as to what the play’s message was or whether it in fact had one. Worth seeing, if only for the performances and moments of great dialogue.
Review by Fay Barrett
Break Point Theatre’s debut production in London centres around the story of 5 young adults, all sinners, all victims. But who has what it takes to really win? Who will cross any line, to get what they want?
Poker. It’s a game of bluffs, gambles, victories and losses. A bit like life really.
Francis, Charlie and Cupid meet each week to play the game. Francis and Cupid share a savage secret. And when charlie finds out, it’s a gun he wants in his hands, not a stack of cards.
Premiered at the Soho Theatre, London, in 2004, Flush takes an uncompromising look at sex, death and deceit.
Showing at Etcetera Theatre
above the Oxford Arms
265 Camden High Street
London NW1 7BU
Wednesday 30th September 2015