REVIEW: CUT THROAT (London Irish Centre) ★★★★

Cut-ThroatTrip & Guts Theatre presents Jean-Philippe Baril Guerard’s provocative and award-winning play as part of the Camden Fringe Festival, in an English adaptation by Matt Cunningham. First performed in Montreal in 2014, Cut Throat explores the right to Freedom of Speech and its limits as defined by law and human decency.

As we enter the auditorium, an usher – who is actually a character in the play – hands out programs and we sit down, together with the actors who emerge from the audience during the course of the performance. This is a forum play but never worry, audience participation is at a minimum.

The show starts off with the Usher (Hannah Wilder) making a speech to honour World Peace Day, elaborating on how the law of the jungle is unfit for man. After only a short time, she is almost dragged off the stage by a crisp munching spectator (Laurence Varda) who finds her boring. Then a self-proclaimed art critic (Jake Mitchell) takes the stage, going to extreme lengths to tell an artist how ugly his or her work of art is and how undeserving of his/her talent: “If this piece holds a mirror to your soul, your soul is crap!” This scene is interrupted by a phone call, answered by the actor, in which the unheard caller whose feelings she does not share, is left completely embarrassed. Next Joseph Rain-Varzaneh’s character feels that the right to speak freely is comparable to the Second Amendment of the American Constitution – you should have a licence to speak just as you need one to carry firearms, which means all the idiots have to shut up. Well, he might not be familiar with the laws of those American states where no licence whatsoever is required, even if you own an assault weapon, but we get his point. After this little warm up, the monologues start becoming nastier and more twisted.

A young man, played by Nick Tuck, makes a sexual declaration of love and proclaims that he and his lover were made for each other so they could people the world with beautiful, superior children, thereby extinguishing the ugly ones with the help of evolution. Kathleen Glynn’s character practices a break-up speech in which she tells her partner that he has grown fat and his expectations are too low. Obviously, they have evolved – in very different directions. Edward Haynes-Neary attacks affirmative action and employment quotas for minority groups that are discriminatory not only to WASP men but also towards the minority groups they are trying to protect. Where is equality if one has to point out that certain groups are welcome to apply for a particular job. Shouldn’t this be a given?

One of the highlights of the evening is a life coach, played by Ahd Tamimi, who tells us that we are a bunch of losers who want to escape paid slavery and therefore pay him a lot of money to share his wisdom on how to become rich so we, too, can be free. Although this is one of the shortest pieces, it really pulls a punch. Jess Nesling’s monologue is a very unsettling piece focusing on misogynist religious groups despising those who do not share their views. She puts the blame on them for instigating hatred in others, which, she states, has justifiably lead to their near extinction.

The evening concludes with three stories about sacrificing the individual for the common good as a receptionist informs a cancer patient that her urgent surgery won’t be scheduled before it is much too late. There is a waiting list and who is to say that her life is more precious than those of other people? A paranoid schizophrenic is advised by her doctor to end it because rehab will never work with her. And a woman who tries to “save the world” by working with NGOs and going on sustainable holidays is informed that she is wasting her time: People in developing countries are meant to die because they have inferior genes. So why try saving them when there are too many of us already?

Laura Jasper’s production benefits from a very good cast. Some of the monologues are too long and repetitive, less would have been more in this case. Maybe the author was trying just a little too hard to make his point. As a whole this is a very disturbing play which provides plenty of food for thought.

Reviewed by: Carolin Kopplin

Cut Throat plays at the London Irish Centre until 22 August 2016