Tag Archives: Maurizio Martorana

Dirty Crusty

Dirty Crusty

★★★★

The Yard Theatre

Dirty Crusty

Dirty Crusty

The Yard Theatre

Reviewed – 28th October 2019

★★★★

 

“as completely random and unexpected as it is, it makes me inexplicably happy”

 

I feel slightly ill-equipped to properly appraise a show that employs so many different contrivances. Dirty Crusty, written by Clare Barron, begins with a plain white origami doll’s house lit from within, accompanied by a voice-over conversation between house mates. Jeanine (Akiya Henry) then appears on the upper stage followed by Victor (Douggie McMeekin) both of whom are holding giant CBBC style microphones. They deliver their conversation half facing the audience, a giant glowing moon projected behind them, and then suddenly they break in to song. They then clamber down to the main set, cast off their microphones and resume a sort of normal narrative.

I say ‘sort of’ because Jay Miller’s direction goes on to use (amongst other things) dance, voice-over narration, another musical number, and strange employment of time. Scenes in entirely different venues, often on different days, overlap: Jeanine and Victor are entangled in bed as Synda (Abiona Omonua) starts her dance class with Jeanine, and vice versa, as Victor initiates conversations about sex fantasies with Jeanine in his flat, whilst Jeanine and Synda are still dancing together in Synda’s rehearsal space.

But whilst the production itself attempts to animate the audience’s disbelief in a myriad of ways, the dialogue and its delivery are painstakingly true to life. Jeanine is thirty-one, and she’s at a difficult juncture. Feeling she hasn’t achieved enough for her age, she looks for ways to improve herself and expand her experiences. She tries to be sexually bolder with her (sort of) boyfriend Victor, and she decides to take up ballet lessons with dance teacher Synda. Her relationships with both are complicated. Sometimes they feed her enthusiasm and sometimes they crush it. Many of the conversations are so close to the real thing that it seems near impossible that they should be scripted. McMeekin’s delivery in particular – every hesitation, every stress – paints such a whole character, full of flaws and good intentions. This seems to be Barron’s particular expertise, having created similarly dimensional characters in her previous work, Dance Nation.

The stage (as designed by Emma Bailey) is built like a wide-set puppet show box, with heavy curtains concealing different sets: One is Victor’s flat, with meticulous Muji furniture; another, Synda’s sparse room, with not much more than a yoga mat for decoration. And a third, hidden for most of the story, is Jeanine’s clothes-covered mess of a hoarder’s room. The ever opening and closing curtains, along with all the other quirky production devices, provide a dream-like quality to the story, somehow magnifying the dialogue’s nuance and conviction.

But just when you think the plot has settled into a more conventional rhythm, (slight spoiler coming up, my apologies) the show ends with a children’s ballet recital- like, actual children ballet dancing. But as completely random and unexpected as it is, it makes me inexplicably happy. And that summary might be applied to the entire play: Completely random, but it makes me inexplicably happy.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Maurizio Martorana

 


Dirty Crusty

The Yard Theatre until 20th November

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
48 Hours: | ★★ | January 2019
Call it a Day | ★★★ | January 2019
Hotter Than A Pan | ★★★★ | January 2019
Plastic Soul | ★★★★ | January 2019
A Sea Of Troubles | ★★★★★ | February 2019
Cuteness Forensics | ★★½ | February 2019
Sex Sex Men Men | ★★★★★ | February 2019
To Move In Time | ★★½ | February 2019
Ways To Submit | ★★★★ | February 2019
Armadillo | ★★★★ | June 2019

 

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Armadillo
★★★★

The Yard Theatre

Armadillo

Armadillo

The Yard Theatre

Reviewed – 5th June 2019

★★★★

 

“at an unsettling, anxiety-inducing pitch, the play takes us to the darkest corners of our society”

 

In small town America, Sam (Michelle Fox) and her husband John (Mark Quartley) have a thing for guns. ‘Thing’ as in obsession: they can’t leave the house or sleep without one. ‘Thing’ also as in fetish: the cold steel plays a prominent role in their sex life. Sam was kidnapped when she was thirteen. Someone with a gun rescued her. Guns are her comfort and her safety.

But one night, John accidentally shoots Sam in the arm during a sex game, and they decide to cut guns out of their lives completely. This is easier said than done when Sam’s brother Scotty (Nima Taleghani) comes to stay with a full arsenal, and the news reports a local girl, Jessica, has been kidnapped. All of Sam’s unresolved emotions come flooding back. Under the pressure, cracks spread through Sam and John’s marriage, Sam’s mental stability, and their gun-abstinence pact.

Far from being simple gun control propaganda, Sarah Kosar’s Armadillo is bold enough to delve into an issue most of us want to see as black and white. At an unsettling, anxiety-inducing pitch, the play takes us to the darkest corners of our society: where young girls are kidnapped, sexually abused, and murdered. Where even the staunchest anti-gun activists might catch themselves thinking, ‘if I’d had a gun…’

The design team submerges us into the nightmare, creating a paranoid fever-dream of flashing neon lights and pulsing, hallucinatory blackouts (Jessica Hung Han Yun), sharp sounds (Anna Clock), and disrupted media projections (Ash J Woodward). Like ticking bombs, the constant, ominous presence of guns keeps the audience on edge throughout the ninety minutes. Stuffed in couch cushions, under pillows, in the freezer, firearms are littered throughout Jasmine Swan’s clever, intriguing set. Raised platforms display a deconstructed house (a mattress, a toilet), encircled by calf-deep water.

Kosar impressively interrogates the complexity of Sam’s trauma as she struggles with whether she’s justified in being as damaged as she is. “Nothing really even happened!” people love telling her, since her kidnapper threatened but never touched her. However, John and Scotty are noticeably shallower characters. The dialogue between the three of them is uneven, awkward, and unnatural, which carries over into Fox, Quartley, and Taleghani’s delivery. It may be a stylistic choice by Kosar and director Sara Joyce as part of the uncomfortable, surreal aesthetic, but the stilted lines prevent the characters (even Sam) from feeling like real people, which makes them difficult to connect with.

There’s plenty of sharp observation in the play’s themes of addiction, enabling (and the guilt that motivates it), coping with trauma, toxic relationships, fetishising violence, and self-destructive behaviour. Armadillos famously jump when scared, which often results in them being hit by cars that would have harmlessly passed over them. Their defence ironically puts them in more danger. It’s a shrewd analogy for the way Americans reach for automatic weapons in search of safety.

 

Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Maurizio Martorana

 


Armadillo

The Yard Theatre until 22nd June

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Hotter Than A Pan | ★★★★ | January 2019
Plastic Soul | ★★★★ | January 2019
A Sea Of Troubles | ★★★★★ | February 2019
Cuteness Forensics | ★★½ | February 2019
Sex Sex Men Men | ★★★★★ | February 2019
To Move In Time | ★★½ | February 2019
Ways To Submit | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

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