The more you end up going to the theatre, the less chance an individual play has of getting under your skin, of invading your memory for days afterwards. I hadn’t expected Gutted to be that play. Rikki Beadle-Blair’s latest slice of working class London life is outrageously rude, crude and funny – but also intense and thought-provoking.
Set in the council estates of Bermondsey, Beadle-Blair ricochets backwards and forwards through the lives of the Prospect family – four brothers overseen by a fearsome matriarch, Bridie (Louise Jameson). Eldest brother Matthew (James Farrar), a bottom-rung professional footballer, is returning home after a spell in rehab – and says out loud some of the secrets that have been eating away at the family all his life.
It doesn’t take much, even from looking at the play’s own publicity material, to realise that historical child abuse is at the heart of the Prospect family’s story. Where Gutted really stands out is the way in which, as the narrative ricochets backwards and forwards in time, we get to look at the cycle of abuse. Why is it that people who have been so scarred as children, who know first hand of the appalling effects of abuse, can’t stop themselves from meting out similar abuse as adults? When they can see that they are perpetuating the cycle, how do they – how could they? — attempt to rationalise their inaction?
A series of fine performances from the ensemble means that, while Gutted is a fairly long play, it always holds the attention. As well as the four brothers, Ashley Campbell excels in a dual role – in the first act as young offender Moses, who may or may not be leading youngest brother John (Gavin McCluskey) astray, and in the second as the transexual Frankie, who is doing just the opposite for Jamie Nichols’ Luke. As the head of the family, Jameson is superb, although the monologue which provides the emotional climax of the play is perhaps a little too different in style from the rest of the piece to achieve its full potential.
The other star of the evening is the set. Almost nothing but mirrors, it gives the characters nowhere to hide, but also gives an indication of how everyone’s lives, for good or bad, are in many ways a reflection of those closest to us.