Bush Theatre, London (****)
There’s an interesting gallic breeze blowing across British theatreland at present. It may of course all be coincidental but if Catherine-Anne Toupin’s oleaginous husband Gilles and his equally repugnant wife, Juliette, had anything to do with it, nothing comes by chance. All is meant to be.
French-Canadian Toupin brings something very special to the French seam that includes a resurrected Jean Anouilh at the Donmar and Florian Zeller currently at Meniers Chocolate Factory with The Truth.
Yet all of them, despite years and backgrounds apart, seem to be sharing a common link if only in their exploration of identity and the blurring of lines between illusion and reality.
Coincidental, as I say, but Toupin produces perhaps the more extreme and unsettling example with Right Now in Chris Campbell’s easy-on-the-ear translation.
Psychological thriller/wicked social satire, if Zeller is the master at overturning audience expectations, Toupin’s highly woman-centred piece doubles and trebles it. Is the baby we hear crying throughout a figment of Alice’s imagination or an expression of a post-partum depression?
But if so, what is the bewildered looking bundle brought on stage at the end if not a real live baby? And why is the neighbour’s weird son, François now acting like Alice’s husband whilst Ben, the husband we saw initially, has taken his place as the couple next door’s beloved supposedly dead son?
There are any number of different readings you could take away from Michael Boyd’s prickly, stylish production with its tender, erotic, Pinteresque, Albee-esque under tones which elicit chuckles but towards the end outright puzzlement.
On some level it’s an acting out of deep desires, emotions and moments we’d like to return to but never can, as if Toupin is giving voice to Freud’s maxim of being driven by our sub-conscious over which we have little control.
All one can say for sure ultimately is that Boyd (a champion of fellow French Canadian Michel Tremblay) gives it a cracking workout.
Maureen Beattie is quite terrifying as the mother taking the elderly Ben to her breast whilst Lindsey Campbell as the disturbed Alice, Sean Biggerstaff (Ben) and Dyfan Dwyfor as the self-harming, neglected neighbour’s son find pitch perfect nuances in this ferment of confusion.
The neighbours from hell! Beware!
Right Now runs at the Bush Theatre to April 16, 2016
Review first published in Reviewsgate, March 2016 and slightly amended here.