THEATRE HoT MEss Hawke + Hunter (Venue 347) HHHHH
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.
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