Escape the Scaffold

Theatre, Drama
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Rising star playwright Titas Halder follows his impressively eerie London debut show 'Run the Beast Down' with another chiller

Following swiftly in the wake of his debut ‘Run the Beast Down’, which ran at the Finborough earlier this year, comes this assured, genre-bending follow-up from Titas Halder. Where the former was a stripped-down, one-man affair, this is a more conventional ensemble piece, but treads along similar paranoiac lines, this time in the jittery world of campus culture and the lengthening shadow of a (largely unspoken) totalitarian state.

Jumping back and forward in time, it follows the three occupants of a provincial student house. Dashing activist Aaron (Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge) clashes with buttoned-down pragmatist Marcus (Charles Reston). The former wants to start a revolution; the latter wants to get a nine-to-five and a mortgage. Caught between their affections in a cloud of ganja smoke is Grace (Rosie Sheehy). At first, friendship wins over ideological differences; then holes start getting pricked in condoms and bowls of salsa get spiked with mind-altering substances.

Hannah Price, who also directed Halder’s debut, deftly guides us through the time-hopping narrative, while Chris Bartholomew returns with another nervy electronic score. The cast get gamely stuck into the rapid-fire philosophising and intrigue. But the real star here is the writer, whose coup is to keep so many plates spinning at once: relegating the dystopian stuff to background ambiguity without it ever feeling toothless, and yoking the lighter moments with out-and-out schlock that had the audience screaming at one point. It confirms what ‘Run the Beast Down’ suggested: that Halder is a serious name to watch. Let’s hope we get whatever’s due next in equally quick succession.

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