As a depiction of a troubled woman’s descent into an inner hell, French-Canadian playwright Catherine-Anne Toupin’s Right Now fits the bill, but be warned: Toupin’s new play is far more unsettling. It is also, intermittently, more effective.
After premiering in Bath, Right Now has transferred to the Bush Theatre, and its new venue is partly what gives it the edge. Instead of being seated at a distance, afforded a comfortably complete perspective of the action on-stage, the audience are forced right up into the single boxy room in which all the narrative takes place. And there’s no clever technology to shift the set around – director Michael Boyd appropriately traps the audience in the small space.
‘Trapped’ is exactly how Alice (Lindsey Campbell) feels when her new flat is invaded by the pushy neighbours from across the hall. Juliette (Maureen Beattie), Gilles (Guy Williams), and their son François (Dyfan Dwyfor) are unfazed by social convention, and they insinuate their way into the living space and life of Alice and her affable husband Ben (Sean Biggerstaff). The young couple have recently suffered a tragic loss and are vulnerable; the neighbours are tellingly called ‘the Gauches’… The situation seems primed for some real social awkwardness.
The result is something that only starts out awkward before ending up bizarre. The audience’s laughs get more and more nervous as the play moves down an unpredictable path, but significantly they don’t abate. This is largely due to performances that are a mix of broadly comic and slightly nasty, with Guy Williams as Gilles Gauche most seamlessly blending the two.
And translator Chris Campbell does such a good job with the script that any stilted dialogue simply adds to Right Now's sense of uncanny.
Having sustained a real weirdness for most of its running time, it’s a little disappointing when the play starts to spell out its themes. Certain scenes push Right Now firmly away from realism to surrealism, and so out of the interesting in-between place it had so successfully occupied. A couple of set-ups are so on-the-nose that they seem like illustrations of a textbook on Freud.
Towards the end, however, it does manage to regain its earlier magic – especially when it reverts to subtlety. A particularly hair-raising moment involves nothing more complicated than a closed door and a clever use of sound effects. If you haven’t already dismissed Right Now as over-the-top, it will send shivers down your spine.
|What||Right Now, Bush Theatre review|
|Where||Bush Theatre, 7 Uxbridge Rd, London, W12 8LJ | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Shepherd's Bush Market (underground)|
23 Mar 16 – 16 Apr 16, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
|Price||£10 - £20|
|Website||Click here to book via Bush Theatre|