The Fastest Clock in the Universe*** (Old Red Lion Theatre, 12 November 2013)

Posted: November 12, 2013 in Theatre

Dating from 1992, Philip Ridley’s very black comedy satirises a society obsessed with staying young, but it gets under the skin in ways very different from Botox. Cougar (Joshua Blake) is a sort of Dorian Gray figure and we meet him on the day that he is celebrating his 19th Birthday for the 11th time. He sits under a sun lamp, forages for unwelcome grey hairs and stares endlessly into a mirror. He adds new dimensions to narcissism, uses people ruthlessly for his own ends and is mercilessly cruel to his long-time partner (Ian Houghton); his big weakness is that he cannot bear any allusion to his true age and becomes extremely menacing if anyone approaches the subject. The guest of honour at the Birthday party is to be a 15-year old boy who is, a little like meat being thrown to a hungry lion, the current target for Cougar’s lust. Things start to go badly wrong when the boy turns up with his pregnant girlfriend. As the girlfriend, Nancy Sullivan gives a brilliant comic turn, making the character so irritating that every member of the audience may have wanted to throttle her. This is a well-acted production and the small space of the Old Red Lion is perfectly suited to the setting of a shabby flat above a disused fur factory. The writing is taut and edgy, always holding the attention and conjuring up several vivid and very unpleasant images that it will take a while to rid from the mind.

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