The Sluts of Sutton Drive, with its press photo of a 1950s housewife with her head stuck in the oven, might evoke more feelings of Desperate Housewives than Sylvia Plath, but that is definitely no bad thing.
Downtrodden mother Stephanie Schwartz has an overdeveloped son with a passion for chicken nuggets, a boyfriend who she doesn’t want to have sex with, and an addiction to drinking cleaning fluid. To top it off there’s a rapist on Sutton Drive, a portal to hell in her sofa, and her friend wants her to join a stripping class.
This hot mess comes from American playwright and blogger Joshua Conkel, alumnus of the TS Eliot Old Vic New Voices US/UK Exchange, and is his British debut. The script is bold, brash and very funny. It’s a darkly comic exploration of a broken woman, and the extreme places our mind can take us when left unchecked. But foremost, it’s crass, gory and surprising – everything you could want in a fringe theatre production. All of which could have the conservative viewer curling their toes, except that the actors are so darned good (that bit was meant to be read in an American accent – the kind they do).
Georgia Buchanan as Stephanie is very meek, and yet unnervingly unhinged. Her warm smile and little nods directly to the audience belie the trauma she conceals and physical pain she endures as her body tries to digest ‘Kablammo’. Kelly Burke as her best friend Sharice is right in the moment, full of surprises at every turn without dipping out of her (comparatively) normal character. Eric Kofi Abrefa plays the muscle-bound giant 12 year old son with all the anger and hormones of a young boy, except that when he fights with his mum, he could easily pick her up and throw her out the window – it’s funny and shocking.
The intimate setting of the gorgeous Finborough Theatre is the ideal setting for Stephanie’s living room, and the audience easily absorb into the set that it becomes something to share among friends. A word of warning though, while they don’t throw pies in your face like some ‘interactive’ theatre, you do get quite a good view of the bloody moments, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
Director Rebecca Atkinson-Lord has taken a unique voice and kept it true to its intended tone. The acting is accurate and believable – despite the absurd story – and it straddles the perfect line between hilarious and horrifying. If you’re not convinced yet, here are some highlights: someone does a whole scene with poo on their outstretched finger; there’s a whole dance routine to Kate Bush performed in wedding dresses with vaginas drawn on them; you learn the meaning of the word ‘mapist’.
If you have a dark sense of humour, you’ll love it. If you don’t…
The Sluts of Sutton Drive plays at The Finborough Theatre, London, SW10 9ED until 9th July 2012. Tickets £10, £14. To book call 0844 847 1652 or visit www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk