Two men sit in a scruffy apartment, which feels suitably cramped and wonderfully detailed on the intimate Boulevard stage. Gary Beadle gives a powerful and animated performance as Black, a god-fearing ex-con who has just intercepted a stranger trying to jump in front of a subway train. Jasper Britton is suitably downtrodden as White, a college professor convinced there's no goodness in the world. The Black/White dichotomy is as much about race as it is two opposite and absolute perspectives, which allow no shades of grey.
The two men sit around Black's table and discuss reasons to live, and the desire to die. Black shares violent stories of his time in jail and espouses the power of god to redeem, while White reveals that he sees society as a forced labour camp, with everyone in line to die. As the conversation progresses, ambiguities creep in and realism merges with symbolism and abstraction.
Over 95 minutes with no interval, the discussions of suicide and desperation are unflinchingly dismal. While there are smatterings of bitter comedy and plenty of vibrance in the anecdotes share between the men, it remains a bleak and intense watch. There's an echo of Samuel Beckett in the nihilism and plenty of McCarthy's own 'state of the nation' reflections on American society.
Terry Johnson's direction puts the emphasis on the text over theatricality, with full space and weight given to the intensity of the language and imagery. The relentless talk, with minimal plot, action or character development, does begin to feel rather flat. But thanks to powerful performances from both actors, this intricate study of humanity is sobering but still engrossing.
|What||The Sunset Limited, Boulevard Theatre review|
|Where||Boulevard Theatre, 6 Walker’s Court Soho , London, W1F 0BT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Piccadilly Circus (underground)|
16 Jan 20 – 07 Mar 20, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£12 - £36|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|