Brutal Cessation (Assembly George Square, Edinburgh)

Posted: August 15, 2017 in Theatre


This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub:

When relationships go wrong, the result can be amicable (or unamicable) separation; in celebrity circles it can be “conscious uncoupling”, but, in her 50-minute play, Milly Thomas asks us to consider another option – that of brutal cessation.

An unnamed couple face each other inside an unfurnished white square; they are barefoot and wearing loose-fitting clothes. It seems that a bout of Judo is about to commence. At first, She (Lydia Larson) teases playfully, testing Him (Alan Mahon) to prove his devotion to her. He succumbs and reciprocates. Progressively, the teasing gets more sinister and She reveals that her fantasy is to smash in her partner’s skull, leading to a lobotomy and mummification. When he takes his fists and a hammer to reduce a watermelon to pulp, we really get the picture.

The play applies a sharp razor to slice into a mutually dependent relationship and expose the latent tensions lurking inside. Performed in short scenes, Bethany Pitts’ brisk and efficient production has a cold, surreal feel that befits the clinical text. It is clear that this couple is driven apart by conflict and we have to assume that only conflict holds them together.

Thomas tells us virtually nothing about these people’s lives outside their combat area, so how can we care about them? That said, it is likely that getting us to care is not the writer’s purpose. By making her play so heartless and emotionally empty, she is leading us to focus on ourselves and the potential for violence in our own relationships and, to that end, she succeeds.

Performance date: 11 August 2017

Photo: The Other Richard

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