Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Hoors" - May 2009

I'm really not sure we should be writing about "Hoors" as there appears to have been some mistake in the production we saw. Gregory Burke has clearly written a nice little throwaway 45 minute play, perhaps for the next 'A Play, A Pie & A Pint' season of lunchtime theatre at Oran Mor, but somehow it has got lost along the way. It's gained an hour in length and has been transformed into a lavish production at the Traverse with a three week run (followed by runs at the Tron and the Theatre Royal Bath). How on earth did that happen??? Okay... it might have had something to do with Burke's last play.

The premise is actually a promising one for the 'black comedy' it's billed as. Wild stag weekend ends up with a dead groom being buried on his wedding day, while his wife-to-be Vicky is more relieved at getting out of marrying Andy than anything else. We meet Vicky (Lisa Gardner) and her sister Nikki (Catherine Murray) the night before the funeral as Andy's mates Tony (Andrew Clark) and Stevie (Michael Moreland) come round to pay their respects. Stevie has already slept with Vicky since Andy died and wants a future with her. Tony and Vicky have a past she would like to revisit while Tony fancies his chances with Nikki. And they work their way through a load of drink and drugs. Yawn.

There are undeniably some nice lines but they are few and far between - and the biggest laugh of the night was a cheap shot at the expense of Clark's height. Throughout the play there was sporadic laughter in the audience but strangely it only ever seemed to be a handful of different people laughing at different moments. There was never a sense that a line really hit home with a large section of the audience.

There are also indications that the play wants to be more than just a comedy. The set, the direction, the pace, the lighting all seem more suited to a serious piece of drama rather than comedy (black or otherwise). The production also features a revolving stage that makes an impact the first couple of times but which frequently irritates by shifting only fractionally (and very slowly) between scenes to provide a slightly differently angled view of the same room. Totally pointless.

Every so often it looks like it might have something to say, such as Vicky's comments about her apparent wealth being all built on a house of cards about to fall, but then goes nowhere with it. And the characters are so uniformly unpleasant that it's impossible to feel any level of empathy for them - even poor dead Andy lying on stage in his coffin is quickly shown to be not exactly undeserving of his fate. And I reckon that's the biggest mistake the play makes. Andy should have been the key to making it work and seeing/hearing his opinion on the actions of the others is where the humour should have come from - Desperate Housewives style.

The cast do their best but the play is pretty unsalvageable. Unless of course Burke wants to cut it down to the 45 minutes of decent material that's currently rattling around in there somewhere.

Hoors runs at the Tron until Saturday 6th June and at Theatre Royal Bath from 10th to 20th June.