PAIN(T) | London, New Wimbledon Studio

Oh; it’s avant-garde. In fact, it’s so avant-garde, it’s post-ironic and even self-mocking. Richard Foreman’s play opened in New York in 1974 — how has it taken 45 years for it to get staged anywhere in the U.K. (or indeed Europe)? For anyone looking for theatre that really pushes boundaries, look no further.

The five members of the ensemble, all dressed in charity shop Tudor garb, appear utterly braindead, shuffling about mechanically and delivering the cryptic, self-referential lines about art and sex into distorted, portable headsets, in a stilted, robotic manner. They’re ordered about by perpetual alarm bells and fire whistles, and a disembodied voice (director Patrick Kennedy) that functions as a narrator, who also continually patronises the audience for “not getting it”.

Director/designer/producer/sound and lighting technician etc Patrick Kennedy has a clear adoration for the absurdist script, which comes through in the immaculate attention to detail, the endlessly creative staging ideas, and the hysterical comedy. The story, if there is one, revolves around artist Rhoda (Emma Gilbey) and her strained relationship with fellow wannabe artist Eleanor (Ivy Lamont).

The publicity is perhaps misleading given there’s really no female nudity (there’s one brief instance of male nudity). And yet, despite the self-referential silliness, there is something very adult about the proceedings. Overall though, it’s seventy minutes of utter madness which will challenge everything you thought you knew about theatre.

Join the madness until 16 March 2019.

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