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Published on Wednesday, 08 May 2013

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3 stars

Brighton Rep Theatre at The Globe (venue website)
4-5, 14, 18, 23, 30 May, 2 Jun, 7:00pm-8:30pm; 10 May, 7:00pm-8:30pm, 8:30pm-10:00pm; 25 May, 1 Jun, 3:00pm-4:30pm
Reviewed by Darren Taffinder

 Warning: Contains strong language.
 Suitable for age 18+ only.

This is a tough one. I really like the idea of the Brighton Rep Theatre, and I especially love their inaugural festival mix of shows – a serious one, a lighter one and a children’s one. I think this is a great start for what I hope becomes not just a Fringe fixture, but also a fixture of our town. However, I have to review my full experience, and there was one big problem with that: the show was in the basement of a pub, which was very loud throughout the play. Not only was there a lot of noise coming from above us, but there wasn’t even a door on the theatre and the room was just across from the toilets.

Bash is the Rep’s serious show. It’s a collection of three one-act plays by American writer and filmmaker Neil LaBute, best known for In The Company Of Men and Lakeview Terrace. (We’ll skip over his American remake of The Wicker Man.) Rather than perform all three parts of Bash, the Brighton Rep picked the two plays focused on parents – each essentially a monologue delivered from one character to another, who remains silent throughout.

In the first part, Joshua Crisp plays a father, travelling on business and staying overnight in Chicago. He sips water as he tells a woman he’s picked up at the hotel’s bar about the loss of his baby daughter. For me this was the stronger of the two stories: Crisp’s intense performance captured the range of emotions of such a devastating loss, especially as it became more and more apparent that the father is nursing a dark secret. The room was very intimate, and the staging took full advantage of this. What’s more, as someone who’s lived in America and has an American wife, I can attest that Crisp’s accent was very good. My wife even thought he was American until he pronounced the word ‘urinal’ the Brit way.

The second play is about a mother, played by Amy Sutton, recounting an affair she had with her arts teacher at the age of thirteen – resulting in a baby son. Unfortunately, as both plays progressed, the noise from above became louder and louder, and there were moments during Sutton’s performance when it was hugely disruptive. She also had the harder script, with a character who seemed more like a writer’s exercise than a well-rounded person; LaBute is best known for his male characters and this felt like an attempt to show he could write female. Sutton might, perhaps, have benefited from a slightly more restrained performance. There were moments when she moved around the stage to emphasis her emotional turmoil, when I think I might have kept her sitting.

To be fair, Sunday night on a bank holiday weekend might not have been the best time to see these plays, and the producer did come over to me at the end to say that the noise was unusual. Both performers tried to incorporate the distractions as best as they could – but of course a pub is going to be loud, and perhaps such a powerful show wasn’t the best choice for this venue. All the same, this is a great start, and hopefully with the profile they’ll gain from it they can find a more suitable home next year.

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