Reviewed – 8th May 2019
“possesses a plethora of great elements, and displays great promise”
Delicacy is part of The Space’s Foreword Festival, an annual event dedicated to honing and producing the work of emerging writers – not that this is evident in Mark Jones’ play, as his script carries all the hallmarks of someone who is already a master of their craft.
Delicacy follows a family’s farcical descent into madness as they’re embroiled in the misdeeds of a cannibal. Jodie and Duncan Gibson (Sarah Tortell and Colin Adrian respectively) had unknowingly eaten a cottage pie containing human flesh served up by their neighbour, who turned out to be a serial killer who eats his victims. The ensuing media storm frames the Gibsons and their daughter Amber (Stephanie Dickson) as villains, and their attempts to quell their antagonisation only serves to exacerbate it. The script takes jabs at the bizarre lack of laws surrounding cannibalism, as well as how the media (ranging from journalists to Instagram) callously exploit and weaponise the distress of others to great effect.
The slope that the family slides down is charted excellently by Jones, toeing the line between darkness and comedy expertly; the desperate actions of the characters frequently provide hilarity for the audience, while there are also a number of cracking one-liners throughout. Sammy Glover’s direction, too, keeps the pace and tension steadily increasing, and having the audience sit on all sides elevates the sense that the characters are trapped. Considering the audience configuration, it’s also hugely impressive that there were no moments where the actors blocked each other’s visibility, which is a testament to Glover’s staging and minimalistic set design that allowed for the maximum level of movement.
Tortell and Adrian both give excellent performances as Jodie and Duncan – they’re consistently believable even when carrying out psychopathic actions, and work as emotional anchors to keep the story grounded, while also keenly delivering the comedy. Dickson, however, does not manage to achieve this too – her portrayal of Amber feels one-dimensional, and occasionally lacks a sense of motivation underpinning her actions. She also seems strangely unaffected by the events surrounding the family, which does not allow her journey through the play to feel like it develops organically, and consequently the resolution does not land as gracefully as it could have.
Despite this shortcoming though, the show still possesses a plethora of great elements, and displays great promise for the future of Mark Jones. Consistently dark and frequently disturbing, Delicacy is – by and large – delectable.
Reviewed by Tom Francis
The Space until 11th May
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: