The already gaping ravine that stretches between those who celebrate gender liberation and cultural diversity and those condemning such ideals has undoubtedly grown even wider over the past few years. Neil LaBute’s semi-confessional Bash Latterday Plays heavily satirises the worryingly large groups entrenched in prejudice and demonstrates how a blinkered approach to life ultimately brings about one’s own demise. This trio of darkly comic tales of personal tragedy excellently presents the reasoning behind seemingly nonsensical actions, performed for the acquisition of power, and desperately urges us to quite simply ‘live and let live’.
First to step into the dimly lit space is a newly successful businessman. In the comforting anonymity of a motel room, he explains to a stranger how he committed what can only be described as a truly horrific crime, in a bid to better his family’s financial situation, that resulted only in tragic loss. He is quickly succeeded by a young Mormon couple who individually recount a weekend away in New York City. While the woman is naively ignorant of the weekend’s significance, her fiancé gleefully remembers how he, along with some friends, asserted his self-righteous masculinity in the dead of night in an act of violence that has become increasingly more common across the world. The final piece shows a downtrodden young woman whose youth was cut short, along with all of her aspirations. She talks of a forbidden romance that shattered both her future and her already fragile self esteem, never to be fully healed.
The cast connect, with varied success, to the clever blend of regret and stubborn pride woven into LaBute’s characters. Jonathan O’Boyle’s direction infuses both Philip Scott-Wallace and Tom Vallen’s performances with heightened energy that at times appears rather cartoonish. In direct contrast, the cleverly subdued Dani Harrison and Rebecca Hickey clearly portray the pervading themes of misogyny and oppression. Both female actors connect beautifully to the solemnity of their characters’ situations: Harrison’s endearing nervous physicality engages the audience’s sympathy while Hickey’s sombre storytelling is utterly hypnotic. The complexity of the four social attitudes is sometimes lost due to the attention given to precise accents and the occasional cheap joke but nevertheless, the social message comes through loud and clear.
Bash Latterday Plays wonderfully scrutinises parochial and exclusively traditional mindsets upheld about the world. Through this series of individual tales, we see how, by condemning others for their gender, sexuality or race, the whole world’s progression is impeded. A sharp but gloomy examination of those refusing to adapt to an otherwise transformative world.
Reviewed by Alex Foott
Photo: Darren Bell
Bash Latterday Plays plays at the Trafalgar Studios until 7 June. Click here for tickets.