Bacon (Finborough Theatre)

Posted: March 5, 2022 in Theatre
Photo: Ali Wright

Writer: Sophie Swithinbank

Director: Matthew Iliffe

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Stories of sickening violence among adolescent boys attending inner city schools frequently fill local news reports, but we get few insights into the details of their lives and the causes of their behaviour. Sophie Swithinbank’s new 75-minute one-act play interrogates teenage macho culture with the vision of an outsider looking in and uncovers its soft centre.

Mark and Darren are 15-year-olds, both from single parent families, but seemingly polar opposites. Mark is geeky, smartly dressed, conformist and proud of the waistcoat that he made for his dog. Darren is an unruly, aggressive bully, lying as conspicuously about his sexual exploits as about a three-day holiday to Barbados; his idea of defying convention is walking through a drive-through McDonald’s, but his love for his three pet mice (Mac, Cheese and Salad) points to some redeeming features. For entirely different reasons, both boys are friendless. The story of their odd relationship is told by Mark, after an unexpected reunion four years later.

The see-saw which spans the width of the traverse stage in Natalie Johnson’s simple set design could be a metaphor for the progression of the play, as laddish comedy and visceral drama vie for supremacy. Bacon begins as a bitter-sweet bromance, but becomes a riveting emotional journey as both Mark and Darren struggle to come to terms with their sexuality. The constant throughout the play is Swithinbank’s razor-sharp writing.

Corey Montague-Sholay reveals the inner turmoil beneath Mark’s calm and orderly exterior. There is genuine astonishment on his face when it occurs to him that Darren had simply acknowledged his existence. Mark realises that he is gay, but cannot make sense of his feelings towards Darren and, in his confusion, resorts to self harming.

The vulnerability masked by Darren’s swagger is brought out beautifully by William Robinson, who demonstrates clearly that all the character’s rule breaking is motivated by his need to get noticed by a neglectful father. Working together, the two actors generate an explosive force, sparked by physical energy and precision timing.

Using the tight performance space to maximum advantage, director Matthew Iliffe’s sizzling production moves at breakneck speed, slowing down only for the tenderest of exchanges. Like a gourmet fry-up, this Bacon is to be savoured. 

Performance date: 4 March 2022

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