Extremities

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Extremities
Extremities

A young woman is stung by a wasp; she captures it and begins, with shocking casualness, to torture it with her lit cigarette. She’s interrupted by a talkative stranger who seems to have got the wrong house. Except he hasn’t: for him, Margery is the wasp.

Even with the title as warning, the brutality of William Mastrosimone’s superbly written play (an Off-Broadway hit in 1982) is shocking. In a bare 80 minutes, he asks several scary questions: how should a woman react to male violence? If she gets the better of the man physically (and her wide-eyed flatmates make it clear, if we didn’t know it, how rare that is), to what extent can words continue the assault? And, most troubling, if she fights violence with its own weapons, then who is the woman and who the wasp?

Angela Bull travels convincingly from idle cruelty to enraged trauma victim (but don’t call her a victim, or she may whack you with a hammer). Her two flatmates do their best with the slightly stereotyped roles of scaredy cat and psychobabbler. And John Schumacher manages the difficult feat of being pitiable and terrifying in turn. Unlike the flatmates, we know whom to believe. Yet, at points the damage wreaked on him disgusts us – and our own suggestibility is more disgusting still.

What is left buzzing in the air of this revival is an awful, and awfully relevant, question: whose behaviour shocks us more? And if this case came to court, into which trembling body would a jury stick the long lit cigarette of the law?

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This play is intense from the moment it starts. It tackles a difficult subject and makes you question yourself as to what you would do in that situation. There are moments when you want to look away but cant because you want to see what happens. The acting was superb and all four characters were very believable. I came away feeling like I had seen a spectacular piece of drama and was thinking about it for days afterwards - I would definitely recommend it but hurry as I believe its ending this week. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for their next production......Well done!