Robin Arthur and Cathy Naden sit in two chairs on opposite sides of the stage and take turns describing a five-act play that encompasses riots, great 20th-century executions, a man who tells jokes whilst his hands burn in a fire, and other bizarre tales twisted and turned into one common narrative. Arthur and Naden are at times playful and competitive and at others desolate as their fantastical play heads to a disconcerting finale.
The production is as simple as their fictional play is complicated. Terry O’Connor sits in the back, sporadically playing the same record to accompany different parts of the narrative. The lighting is simple and mimics the costumes, with Arthur in a cyan blue shirt and Naden in a magenta dress. The overall effect is strangely bewitching, and the slow yet steady unwinding of events produces a trance-like vision. It’s a bizarre world, sometimes deeply funny, and sometimes utterly bleak.
If anything, it’s the small changes that detract from the overall piece. Naden stands in the middle only to sit back down, and O’Connor plays a new piece of music once towards the end, only to return to the familiar song later. And although it’s only 75 minutes, it’s still slightly too long for this format, offering most of its artistic potency within the first hour.
Forced Entertainment’s Dirty Work (The Late Shift) is not straightforward or even ‘entertaining’ theatre, but this accomplished company demonstrates its ability to experiment with theatrical boundaries. This UK premiere of an older work proves to be as compelling and enchanting as ever.
|What||Dirty Work (The Late Shift), Battersea Arts Centre review|
|Where||Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, London, SW11 5TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Clapham Junction (overground)|
27 Jun 17 – 01 Jul 17, 7:30 PM – 12:00 AM
|Price||£12.50 - £17.50|
|Website||Tickets on sale now|