By Reece Connolly
Directed by Georgie Staight
The Bunker Theatre (London), Until 1st Dec 2018
‘Chutney’ is described as a Black comedy. Oh boy they are not lying. This is an evening of theatre that had the audience laughing at the caustic and spot on dialogue in one moment and audibly uncomfortable the next. But when the play is about a young couple with an insatiable blood lust for killing animals, I did not expect to come out unscathed.
Gregg (Will Adolphy) and Claire (Isabel Della-Porta) have been together since university and have settled into a seeming domestic bliss. But it is very quickly made apparent that barely under the surface is a mutually shared sick desire to kill. “We did it together.” Theirs is a partnership, a union that is only deepened by the killing of a small dog and then the Pandora’s box is opened and no neighborhood cat, dog, rabbit or parakeet is going to be safe. Adolphy and Della-Porta give amazing performances and they were absolutely fantastic to watch.
‘Chutney’ really does go there; the language is visceral and descriptions of the destruction are not sparse. There is also some very clever/disturbing use of props that created one of those perfect moments where as an audience member you laugh but then cover your mouth in horror at the fact you are now complicit.
The kitchen setting with its compromised sterility was spot on and the bright lighting and pops of colour made it a dynamic set. The theatre was set up with seating all around and the actors directed their speeches to all sides which means there is no bad seat here.
Writer Reece Connolly wanted to write a horror story and as a horror fan I was really excited about this. I feel that we don’t often see horror done well on stage (if at all) and with great writing and a clear understanding of creating tension ‘Chutney’ really nails it. (Excuse the pun)
There is a very film like feel to the play and in a Tarantino-esque move the action is blocked into specific chapters with beautiful voiceover narration care of Bertha the talking fish (Rosalind McAndrew), which nicely moved the action along. There is very little fourth wall in the show as Gregg and Claire speak to the audience throughout from their shiny white kitchen. Sometimes I hate this device in plays but in ‘Chutney’ I loved it and thought it worked incredibly well.
The first half of the play had fantastic energy and was very fast paced. The second half however lost a bit of momentum perhaps as it focused more heavily on the relationship issues the couple are experiencing rather than the more surreal dramatic elements. I think it was the lesser for that choice.
However any quibbles aside, I really enjoyed this play. Great writing, strong performances and an assured production. I would absolutely recommend, though maybe not one to take your pet to.
© Sarah Browne 2018