, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One’s final hours at the Fringe are awash with grief and guilt at all of the plays that have been missed, but I could have cheerfully bunked off the Lincoln Company’s “Secret Window, Secret Garden,” which has just finished up at S Coco. Leaving aside the sad fact that Stephen King has only ever offered a tantalising glimpse of a decent writer, the Lincoln Company here exert no cosmetic effect over his original novella.

The play is clipped and insubstantial, but the cast still cannot prevent it from dragging. Luke Venneear works hard as the haunted writer Mort Rainey, but he is not a sturdy enough donkey to pull this cart along pleasantly. Jamie Evans looks and sounds peculiarly like John Prescott as the wily monster Shooter, but the amusing possibilities of this are never explored. The play becomes rather garbled, but as Shooter is surely a shadow of Rainey’s personality, and as Evans is a stronger actor than Venneear, it would have worked out better if Shooter had taken the final confrontation with Rainey’s wife. Incidentally, the penultimate scene bore too much of a resemblance to the famous staircase altercation in King/Kubrick’s The Shining, and this could only invite an unflattering comparison.

The Zoo Roxy Den is the dearest, cutest little theatre, but it is really intended for the sort of children’s play that is delivered with sock puppets, and not for an explosive urban drama that is performed by a cast of ten. Moreover, Raw Perception’s “Thugz N Tearz” seems to have been forgotten about at the end of the Fringe, and my enjoyment of this play is spoiled somewhat by the pronounced suspicion that I am the only real “outside” person here. Glancing about the tiny audience, it seems that everybody is somehow in on the play, and all of their laughter sounds very knowing. Perhaps that scruffy man is the producer, and the couple behind him are his parents? Considering that the cast are screaming and brandishing firearms, I am suddenly massively afraid.

They could torture me to death down in this cellar, and as everybody is as thick as thieves, the authorities would never find out. Once the play had finished, my body could lie down here undiscovered for months, possibly until the next Fringe.

“Thugz N Tearz,” despite the silly name, is a work of such visceral theatre that one cannot understand why it has ended up in so poky a venue. It should be really experienced from some distance. The cast are practically performing on the end of my nose, and it is an unsettling privilege to have this play in my face. The play is agreeably Shakespearean – with more plotting and backstabbing than a Venetian citadel – and its fine cast are splendidly lead by Wahab Sheikh and Joseph Hutton.

It is a sad story, though. Everybody is battling to control a neighbourhood in East London, but none of these characters really have a clue between them. Kaiza (Sheikh) rejects the empty materialism that motivates the rest of his comrades, but his own religious faith is only rewarding because he says that it is. Islam is not going to save any of these people. Blacker (Hutton) has shammed up the solemnity of a preacher, but he is betrayed by his unpredictable temper. Siobhan (Ese Ighorae) is a vision of magnificent, ferocious beauty, but what could possibly reconcile her with society? Even if she had the chance to grow out of her passion, would she be destroyed by the alternative? And what is the alternative? Nathan Clarke, Jac Husebo and Adam Bacon work hard as a sort of clown ensemble to bring some colour to the play, but this cannot stand out amidst such deep shadow.

Several weeks ago, Tychy was remarking in bars around the theatre circuit that the Tottenham riots would have never happened if they had a Fringe down in London. This show affirms that they at least need something.