There’s nothing like live theatre. For all the benefits of increased access in filming shows (Gypsy on BBC4 over Christmas being a great example), nothing compares to the thrill of that unique communication between performer and audience, that which electrifies and enhances. And it’s something that is in plentiful supply at the Hope Theatre right now, in Andrew Maddock’s new play in/out (a feeling), directed by Niall Phillips for his Lonesome Schoolboy company.
Within the first five minutes, Alex Reynolds’ baleful stare as sex worker Blue had me utterly pinned me to my seat and wanting to apologise to her on behalf of all men, such is the raw intensity of both her performance and Maddock’s writing. Inspired in part by the extraordinary play Elegy and real-life testimony of women affected by trafficking, Blue’s account of how she has become entrapped and entwined in her situation simply burns with its quiet directness.
Maddock gives us more than this though, mingling Blue’s monologue with that of coke-snorting “man-boy-child” Ollie. His hard-partying ways lead him to cross paths with Blue and as such, in/out becomes an intelligent critique of the way in which our society both permits and tolerates the existence of the sex trade. Nicholas Clarke stalks the in-the-round space of Phillips’ ephemerally beautiful design with a more energetic intensity but facing his own demons, he’s no less tragic a figure.
A real sense of dense and dark poetry emerges from the interlinked monologues, unexpected rhymes resonate and repeated phrases echo through the text. And Phillips maintains a keen sense of pace that keeps it from ever becoming too mawkish and strongly evokes that sense of being unable to control a life that’s passing by too quickly. It may not be the most straightforwardly easy watch but in/out (a feeling) has something threaded right through it that is impossible to ignore. Uncompromising direct, thought-provokingly real, it is theatre to give you goosebumps.