07 May 2006

Motortown by Simon Stephens

Lee - Tom Fisher
Danny - Daniel Mays
Marley - Daniela Denby-Ashe
Tom - Steve Hansell
Paul - Richard Graham
Jade - Ony Uhiara
Justin - Nisk Sidi
Helen - Fenella Woolgar

Directed by Ramin Gray

at the Royal Court

as per Lyn Gardner at The Guardian

To Danny it is not Iraq but England that is the foreign country. "I don't blame the war. The war was all right. I miss it. It's just you come back to this," he says.
The 'this' is a girl who doesn't love him, and who has got herself another boyfriend. It is an England where the "war on terror" has become a war waged using the tactics of the terrorists. It is also a place of dubious moralities, small-time arms dealers and middle class swingers and anti-war protesters.
Nobody is coming up smelling of roses, and this England has all the stinking attractions of a dog turd. Perhaps it is no surprise that Danny is going to turn his disappointment and inarticulate rage into an inarticulate revenge.

Anyone familiar with Stephens' previous work may be in for a bit of a shock. In his excavations of working class life, Stephens has often displayed a tender touch. Motortown is like being run over by a 10-tonne truck that doesn't bother to stop to check that you are still breathing.

It is in no way a pleasant experience, but is, I think, an essential one. And it is not without a desperate, brutal tenderness, particularly in the relationship between the life-damaged Danny and his genetically damaged elder brother, Lee.

It is only with his brother that Danny gropes towards a kind of communication. There are imperfections: although the play is recklessly brave, its aim is sometimes that of the scatter gun, and in suggesting that Danny was a psychopath long before he went to Iraq, or perhaps even joined the army, Stephens undercuts the connection between personal violence and violence perpetrated in the name of the state.

But although it will probably get up a lot of liberal noses, this is a searingly honest play written and played particularly by Daniel Mays as Danny, with a deadly coiled energy. It owes a debt to Edward Bond as well as B├╝chner, and Ramin Gray's stark production - played under bright lights, on a stripped-out stagea is thrustingly contemporary even as it pays homage to Brecht.

I could have done without the dancing furniture, but not the astonishing moments when blood is mopped from the stage in a ritual that feels both like absolution and a terrible punishment.

Me? I loved it....I loved the sparsity of the set, the 'Stomp' style chair thumping and the gentle humanity shown between the actors.