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Review: Nuclear War/Buried/Graceland, at Old Red Lion Theatre

12 March, 2020 — By Paul Cowling

Anthony Cozens in Graceland. Photo: Charles Flint Photography

THIS dark triptych uses common themes of sex and grief.

Buried is by David Spencer, whose father, Max, was buried alive in the Second World War, while in the Navy.

Max is played by his actual grandson, James Demaine, whose performance isn’t helped by a weak southern Irish accent. Demaine hams up the despair in a confusing 45-minute monologue, which goes back in time, before German frogmen bomb the Italian hotel Max is billeted in.

We find out that orphan Max was christened Noel. We see Max – trousers down – finished off by an invisible working girl.

“I feel the cold and taste the soil,” he says, but I couldn’t wait for the Yanks to rescue him and us from this rambling torture.

In Max Saunders-Singer’s Graceland, Anthony Cozens is terrific as scruffy, affable science teacher Mr Chrichton, handing out textbooks to bored pupils who would rather flick elastic bands.

Co-directed with Sonnie Beckett, Saunders-Singer breaks the fourth wall so that the audience unknowingly become Class 9D.

There are clues to Mr Chrichton’s combustible angst from the “Mr Chrichton is…” scribbled on the blackboard, to porn mockingly projected by a “pupil” onto the classroom walls. The sex footage is grainy, but the groans of Mrs Chrichton are clear. There’s only so much a man can take.

The last play is a bizarre adaptation of Simon Stephens’ Nuclear War. An unnamed woman mourns the loss of a dead love, but goes into town for coffee, waffles and coitus.

Zoe Grain and Freya Sharp’s dialogue is slick. Both wear white slips, before slipping on black boots and coats as they go in search of a filthy night.

But, are they playing the same woman, or are they different?

Until March 21
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