Stitching by Anthony Neilson at the White Bear Theatre

Anthony Neilson’s shocking play is back. On its first run in 2002 people walked out! And you can understand why. Masturbation and Auschwitz, dildos and self inflicted sewing – may not be everyone’s cup of tea. This time it was performed at the charming White Bear Theatre in Kennington. We were new to this theatre but were won over by its intimate space, lovely bar and, of course, polar bear teddy!

An ill-starred couple fight, argue and struggle their way through the news of pregnancy and whether or not they should keep the baby. The action jumps back and forth between several situations in their troubled time together.

House of Wolf bring back this piece and it is just as shocking as it was when it first came out. Adam Howden and Sarah Harkins star as the warring couple. They showed great versatility in portraying the huge emotional range of their characters in an angry relationship, and then afterwards in a very different relationship. Intimately staged with a bed in the middle of the space, the actors flung themselves around it, verbalising and physicalising their problems whilst lights under the bed illuminated bags of children’s things. We do not understand the true context of the things until the end – a powerful symbol throughout.

Anthony Neilson has written some wonderful plays and this was no exception. Expertly cutting through this destructive relationship, he gives us a few details here and there, so that understanding what’s taken place is not given away too soon. The relationship was sick. It goes to show that fundamental problems can be irreconcilable. And having a baby is no solution. This play was sick, brilliantly sick. A very good production from House of Wolf. And a lovely little pub theatre!

Dramatic highlight of the play – Stu explaining the correct attire and attitude of a whore, to the attentive Abby.

WIGS 4/5

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