THE­ATRE HoT MEss Hawke + Hunter (Venue 347) HHHHH

The Scotsman - - Fringereviews Hotshow -

IT’S two years since Ella Hick­son first ex­ploded onto the fes­ti­val scene with her mag­nif­i­cent mono­logue show Eight, and dur­ing that time she has be­come recog­nised as one of Bri­tain’s lead­ing young play­wrights. Her lat­est project – staged in a base­ment club in Pi­cardy Place – re­flects fa­mil­iar themes of twen­tysome­thing love and sex; but it’s pre­sented with great skill and poise, in a beau­ti­fully paced pro­duc­tion that never flags, over a taut 90 min­utes.

Hot Mess con­cerns a cri­sis in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween a brother and sis­ter who strug­gle to let each other go, not least be­cause the brother is a strange, celi­bate fig­ure who finds phys­i­cal re­la­tion­ships al­most im­pos­si­ble. She has stayed in the small is­land town where they grew up, he has been away in London; but when he re­turns to find her locked in a pas­sion­ate love af­fair with a good-look­ing sum­mer vis­i­tor, he is filled with re­sent­ment and anger. And then there is a fourth char­ac­ter, a cheer­fully pro­mis­cu­ous is­land girl for whom sex is lit­er­ally just play, a late night, post-club form of recre­ation.

What’s most in­ter­est­ing about the play is its ex­plo­ration – more hinted at than fully de­vel­oped – of how the ex­pe­ri­ence of sex can range from the com­pletely mean­ing­less to the dan­ger­ously over­charged, and the im­pos­si­bly threat­en­ing. The in-the-round stag­ing is deft and at­mo­spheric, and there are some wist­ful songs sung by gwen­dolen Chat­field, in a thought­ful per­for­mance as the girl at the cen­tre of the story. In the end, though, the con­tent of this play seems a lit­tle less sat­is­fy­ing than its form, and the story’s end­ing a shade out of time; even though the de­tail of the writ­ing is of­ten pow­er­ful, and some­times down­right mem­o­rable.

JoycE McMiLLAn

Un­til 30 Au­gust. To­mor­row, 6pm

Hot Mess is a beau­ti­fully paced ex­plo­ration of the dif­fer­ent emo­tional at­ti­tudes to sex, that never flags, over a taut 90 min­utes

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