Gruesome Playground Injuries

Gate Theatre, Westbourne Grove Friday February 15 2013 19:30

Poor old Doug is a real-life Mr Bump. Accident-prone doesn't come close. Bones break. Ankles twist. Eyeballs jump out of their sockets.

Kayleen, then, could be Little Miss Forlorn. Her hurt wells up from inside. The scars might be less prominent, but they're every bit as permanent. From the moment they meet in the school sanitorium – Doug having cycled off the roof – their lives and pains entwine. He loves her, but she won't let herself be loved.

Rajiv Joseph's superb two-hander – mordantly funny and tender as a sprain – traces their symbiotic relationship through the years. Only Kayleen can heal Doug's wounds; only Doug can empathise with hers. When she's sick, he reaches down his throat and offers his flesh when she self-harms. It's a cycle that quickly turns vicious.

But Justin Audibert's confident, winsome staging plays up the indie-flick sentiment. It's immediately gratifying, but foregrounding the pain would let it leave scars. It would certainly speed it up; Audibert's lingering, uke-happy scene-changes slow a precariously formulaic script.

Nonetheless, it's still a delight with a perfectly-cast pairing on tip-top form. Mariah Gale, brittle and brusque, is both heartbreaking and infuriating as Kayleen, while Felix Scott, all lumbering sentiment, is adorably dunderheaded as Doug.

Venue name: Gate Theatre
Contact:
Address: 11
Pembridge Rd (above the Prince Albert Pub)
Notting Hill
London
W11 3HQ
Transport: Tube: Notting Hill Gate
Price: £20, £15 concs