Phil is famously scared of heights, latterly and powerfully illustrated in Petra, Jordan (see illustration to the right) where he had to be physically prised off a rock on a particularly vertiginous ledge by not only a Jordanian guide but by two bemused Bedouin women and a very discombobulated Andrew.
But Andrew too can readily succumb to the jitters, being prone to an attack of the vapours when ever anyone says “approximate running time”, “unreserved seating”, “theatre-in-the-round”, “Pinter revival” or “last orders”.
So given the everyday anxieties of life as a Whinger, stories of theatregoers running from the theatre during performances of Terror 2009, Theatre of Horror and Grand Guignol at the Southwark Playhouse were of relatively little concern.
Like Miniaturists, the annual Terror event could have been devised with the Whingers in mind: people with short attention spans and low boredom thresholds can hold their heads up high here. In two hours and 20 minutes you get four short plays by Lucy Kirkwood, Mark Ravenhill (who also performs his), Anthony Neilson and Neil LaBute plus some amusing bits of business before and between them including a masterful reminder to switch off your mobile phones and a delightful entr’acte by Sarah-Louise Young (this Sarah-Louise Young not this Sarah-Louise Young, we presume) . In a change to normal theatre bar practice Phil was actually served at the bar by one of the directors and we sincerely hope this conviviality spreads to the West End and subsidised theatres very soon.
The Whingers had deliberately avoided reading anything about Terror 2009 so as to derive the maximum shock factor and they weren’t disappointed so we won’t give away too much . We’ll just say that Kirkwood’s is perhaps the most traditional genre piece (and elicited a genuine scream from an audience member for its trouble) and is absolutely brilliantly staged. Ravenhill’s is the most linguistic and he makes a good fist of presenting it too. Neilson’s is the least horrific but the most real-play-like and features a wonderfully brash performance by Trudi Jackson. All three pieces are delivered in a spirit of playfulness which ends – very abruptly – with Mister LaBute’s Some White Chick which propels the audience full pelt into a brick wall of realism, rebuking them sharply for having enjoyed the foregoing Grand Guignol titillations.
Was that fair? Was that right? The Whingers had a good old debate about it in the (very reasonably priced) bar afterwards. After a few drinks, their initial deflation at Mister LaBute having rather spitefully punctured their evening gave way to grudging acceptance and eventually they decided to bury the hatchet and deem the entire evening a great success.
Highly recommended but hurry because it closes on Saturday (24th October) for some strange reason, long before hallowe’en. We hear Southwark Playhouse is planning a panto next June.