Rapture, Blister, Burn

Theatre, Drama
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Friendly warning! We're working hard to be accurate. But these are unusual times, so please check that events are still happening.

To boil a potentially meaningful argument into banality: modern feminist theatre can be pretty cool. By which I mean, a lot of its makers take the stance that if you’re going to bung a load of theory and intellectual exposition into your work, then you probably want to use a hipper, more provocative medium than a couple of characters talking for two hours (see this week’s NT show ‘Blurred Lines’, for instance).

US playwright Gina Gionfriddo’s ‘Rapture, Blister, Burn’ is completely uncool. Well, not completely: it’s often very funny. But in the second scene it whumps you over the head with a lengthy, unabashedly untheatrical discourse on the second wave of feminism from the play’s four female characters.

It’s a scene based on a tenuous premise: Catherine (Emilia Fox) is a hotshot feminist academic who has taken a year out to look after her mum (Polly Adams) and is teaching a summer class to keep busy. And guess what? The only two people to sign up are her erstwhile best friend Gwen (Emma Fielding), and Avery (Shannon Tarbet), the sassy 21-year-old who Gwen fired in the first scene.

I really liked it: ‘Rapture, Blister, Burn’ has no sense of self-importance, but is a witty, unsentimental piece that sacrifices a certain polish in order to fully articulate tricksy questions about how one should live one’s life in these enlightened times.

Amid all the talking, a plot of sorts kicks in, when Catherine and Gwen decide to swap lives. In the resulting farrago, Gionfriddo quite reasonably seems to argue that total happiness is a preposterous idea, and that that’s okay.

It’s powered by some great performances: Fox is kind, charismatic and subtly fragile, Tarbet scene-stealingly bratty, Adam James heartbreakingly shlubbish as Gwen’s husband Don. Under Peter DuBois’s relaxed direction, ‘Rapture, Blister, Burn’ gains momentum but never tries to make a crisis out of a domestic drama.

Instead Gionfriddo simply trusts that her play will hold our interest through the batting around of awkward questions. And she’s right.

By Andrzej Lukowski



You may also like
    Latest news