Tristan Bates Theatre
Reviewed – 15th April 2018
“bristling with a rottweiler-level energy, but is matched by a tone of unfocused anger and bitterness”
Mortgage is a challenging piece of theatre – in every sense of the word. This devised piece from the minds of the renowned David Glass Ensemble and Created a Monster (with writing also credited to David Glass) is itching to provoke some deeply pressing conversations, while also being too frustrating in its design to fully wrangle with its own thesis. As such, it presents itself as something unpolished and messy, but despite this there is an urgency and forcefulness to the show that holds you in an unforgiving vice grip.
At this point in the review I’d normally provide a brief plot synopsis, but it’s difficult to know where to even start with Mortgage. The show initially consists of two doctors in drag (François Testory and Simon Gleave) attempting to treat the eponymous Mortgage (Briony O’Callaghan) through a series of vignettes incorporating various forms of movement, violence, and magic, tonally feeling like grotesque versions of Monty Python sketches. This then somewhat clunkily segues into a huge and unnecessary exposition dump as Mortgage explains her backstory, which jars with what came before, and slows the momentum to a crawl by placing the focus on what happened instead of what’s going to happen until finally, we end up in another sketch of sorts that seemingly tirades against actors, theatres, and audiences. There’s very little cohesion between these moments and it’s never quite clear why they’re being presented on stage to us.
But one can’t help but wonder – was that the point? When the creatives involved are so esteemed, when the action on stage is so visually striking, when the performances are so vocally and physically committed, it’s easy to ponder whether the disjointed nature of events is founded in an intentional desire for theatremakers to spoon-feed less to the audience, and for the audience to infer their own meanings from the art they consume. Perhaps there is actually an undercurrent of genius to the madness.
Even if there were admirable intentions behind Mortgage, though, the execution of them feels unsatisfying. It’s bristling with a rottweiler-level energy, but is matched by a tone of unfocused anger and bitterness – if David Glass and the company were trying to say something, it isn’t said with any clarity, and is instead lost behind a mire of perplexing theatrical choices. You’re never quite certain what Mortgage is, who it’s for, or why it’s been made, and yet it will still manage to keep you captivated for its runtime – it’s a case of style over substance, but the style is present in droves.
Reviewed by Tom Francis
Photography by Gavin Maunsell
Tristan Bates Theatre until 20th April
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: