Presented by Glasgow-based company Fear No Colours, this version of Anthony Neilson's 1993 play uses dark humour to reveal the intense experiences of urban youth, as well as the damaging effects of war on soldiers who come home.
Max and Alan, flatmates and friends, are spending an evening together – hanging out, smoking weed, playing cards, and exchanging banter. Tadge (an old friend of Max’s) suddenly appears, having been discharged from the Army and wanting to stay the night. He claims that a group calling themselves the Penetrators took him to a "Black Room", and are now hunting him down because he managed to escape.
The plot takes a dark turn and escalates quickly, as the trio revisit the past, their childhood, and the promise of a simpler time – if only they could turn the clocks back. Matt Roberts does a fine job as Alan, especially during a particularly tense 15 minutes of conflict. Chris Duffy as the mostly spineless Max, and Tom White as the slightly unhinged, vacant-eyed Tadge, also act very convincingly throughout.
But the first half of the show is very slow going, to the point of being a bit absurdist – reminding me of Vladimir and Estragon waiting on Godot. You get that sense that this is too banal to go on, that something shocking has to happen; and indeed it does, but the play just takes too long to get to that point. Furthermore, I felt the jumble of Tadge’s past wasn’t brought out as clearly as it might be through the dialogue.
However, I enjoyed the overarching themes: the horrors of being in the Army, the pressures of submitting to lad culture and the challenges of modern British life. In the end, this was time well spent.