The Fastest Clock In The Universe

Rating ***
Reviewed by Tony Peters

Twenty-one years on from when Philip Ridley’s slightly odd but compulsively watchable play was first produced at the Hampstead Theatre with a cast that included Jude Law, its themes of refusing to accept the aging process and obsession with image are more relevant than ever.

In a London flat sits Cougar Glass, a young man of astonishing vanity, constantly under a sun lamp or preening himself in front of the mirror. The other person there is Captain Tock, older and going a bit to seed in Cougar’s eyes. But Captain dotes on his companion, always striving to please him — even arranging a birthday party as a device for the perpetually nineteen-year-old Cougar to have his wicked way with Foxtrot Darling, a boy he’s been grooming. But a spanner is thrown into the works and what at first starts as a humorous twist, ends with a powerful and shocking conclusion.

Performances are first rate, although neither Joshua Blake as Cougar or Ian Houghton as Captain really earns any sympathy from us. You want to give them both a bloody good slap — Cougar for his self-obsession and Captain for his pathetic subservience. But the performance of the evening comes from Nancy Sullivan as the force of nature that is young Sherbet Gravel. Because she plays it for laughs and so larger than life, the ending comes like a blow to the stomach. It could be said that it goes a tad too far, but the fine performances, Ridley’s cracking dialogue and Tom O’Brien’s tight direction help retain credibility.

Written by Philip Ridley
Directed by Tom O’Brien

Cougar Glass​​: Joshua Blake
Captain Tock​: Ian Houghton
Cheetah Bee​​: Ania Marson
Foxtrot Darling​: Dylan Llewellyn
Sherbet Gravel​: Nancy Sullivan