Wednesday, 19 February 2014

'Rapture, Blister, Burn' Hampstead Theatre ****

I have been entering the Hampstead Theatre's doors for over a year and a half and my latest visit at the feminist play ‘Rapture, Blister, Burn’ was a pleasant one indeed. The playwright, American Gina Gionfriddo, became quite known in the United Kingdom in 2011 with her play ‘Becky Shaw’ a one minded account of a latter-day Jane Austen. She is now back in Britain and presents us with another humorous and witty comedy that bounds wonderful dialogue and well performed characterisation. However the narrative hasn't got quite as much flare and energy that you'd expect from a Hampstead Theatre production. On the other hand, ‘Rapture, Blister, Burn’ has an impressive and watchable script. The setting behind the play is in a miniature town in New England which stars Don and Gwen Harper, a couple in their early-mid forties, but their lives are not as what they'd expected. Don who is a Dean of Studies at a rather unrefined local college which he doesn't seem to enjoy. To save his rather lacklustre work life he turns to marijuana and internet porn, which soon escalates on him wanting a better sex life. His spouse Gwen, a stereotypical housewife has made it her calling to devote her life to their children and has a slight mental problem, she becomes quite apprehensive when her son's babysitter arrives with a black eye and immediately dismisses her thinking it may cause nightmares for her three-year-old. However a woman from Don’s past arrives, Catherine, a lavish academic and media personality he returns to her hometown to look after her mother who has just suffered a heart attack. Her ultimate motive is to rekindle her romance with Don. Catherine is a devout feminist who looks into the theory of politics within pornography and starts up a class of people to discuss the issue. Unfortunately only two people attend. I found the performances by the entire company to be one of such splendour. Emilia Fox is outstanding as this as sharp and smouldering Catherine, who proves to be a hit with the audience this evening. Emma Fielding's portrayal of the overly obsessive wife Gwen is excellent and I thought that Adam James was extraordinary as the sex fanatic. The direction by Peter Dubois is an interesting one to comprehend as it's very unusual for a male to direct such a feminist piece of work but he constructs it in quite a glorious fashion that can engage both males and females from all corners of society. I found the whole production to know thanks to both pose questions on how feminism works with society today and whether it means anything at all.

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