“Chicken or beef?”
It’s not too many shows that begin with giving out a safe word, a code to shout out in case things get uncomfortable but if the repeated blackouts of Cut get too much for you, there is a way out. We’re welcomed into the world of Duncan Graham’s solo psychological thriller by a woman with the perma-smile of a flight attendant for that is what she is and once all the safety advice has been dispensed, we’re taken full-force into the darkness of her story.
A male passenger is stalking her, eerily omnipresent in the confined space of the aircraft. He reappears later on a train and then again, once she’s at home. Or does he? The fractured nature of Graham’s narrative, as cannily delivered by Hannah Norris, folds in and back on itself with startling regularity – actual technical wizardry from lighting designer Sam Hopkins allows ingenious varied shifts and Russell Goldsmith’s soundscape is suitably tense as it tightens the mood.
But theatre is not built on atmosphere alone and as intriguing as this world – also directed by Graham – is, his script rarely matches up. It aims for a Simon Stephens-like gnomic inscrutability, especially once memories from the woman’s earlier life begin to bleed through – the one about Donald and the fish they terrorise is certainly striking – but it mainly proves frustrating as there’s little that’s tangible to really hold onto, whether a character to invest in or a plot to get hooked on.
Norris’ performance level never wavers though and she manages the not-unimpressive feat of unspooling a whole lot of cling film without it ever getting tangled up in itself. But the promise that is suggested by the creative cleverness of Cut doesn’t always feel like it has been delivered upon.