Debris

  • Theatre
  • Drama
1/4
© Richard Davenport

Harry McEntire (Michael)

2/4
© Richard Davenport

Harry McEntire (Michael) and Leila Mimmack (Michelle)

3/4
© Richard Davenport

Harry McEntire (Michael)

4/4
© Richard Davenport

Harry McEntire (Michael)

With one burst appendix, a family is demolished. ‘Matilda’ and ‘Utopia’ scribe Dennis Kelly’s debut play, now 11 years old, shows the ruinous aftermath of a mother’s death: a young brother and sister left to fend for themselves by their absent alcoholic of a father. The kids are the rubble left behind, without a hope of rebuilding lives that are defined by destruction. They dream of deadly diseases and alien abduction.

Kelly only lets you glean reality through the children’s warped fantasies and bizarre religious myths. Michelle remembers eating her way out of her dead mother’s womb; Michael recalls returning home to find their dad atop a homemade, fully-mechanised crucifix, bleeding to death in their living room. They adopt a discarded newborn, found beneath a waste chute, breastfeeding it with blood.

The writing fizzes. No, it mewls and pukes. The humour is dark as sin, but sometimes the narrative grows too mangled to follow. There’s no doubting the force of Kelly’s voice, nor of his depraved imagination, but a decade on, you wonder if there’s much point behind all this. Is it just a cartoon version of poverty porn? A kind of rubbish-dump romanticism? You can hear the writer having fun, albeit without saying much of real consequence.

Still, it gets a gutsy, non-natural revival from director Abigail Graham. A mound of rubble dominates Signe Beckmann’s stripped-back stage, around which Harry McEntire and Leila Mimmack clamber and wrestle. She flickers with a jittery enthusiasm; he skulks around, slamming bricks down in frustration. Their chemistry is gorgeous: brittle and, in spite of his attempts at sororicide, oddly tender. McEntire, in particular, handles the monologues exquisitely; recounting the crucifixion tale with total control and grisly relish. But that’s the opening and ‘Debris’ never quite matches its brilliance.

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