The Mercy Seat

3 out of 5 stars
© Clare Breheny Mercy Seat

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Even by his own prodigious standard, Neil Labute’s emotionally bruising 9/11 drama managed to hit some nerves when it premiered on Broadway in 2002.

It’s September 12 2001, and married father Ben and his older lover Abby sit in her apartment, half-paralysed with shock at the terrorist attacks, half-stunned at the audacity of what they are contemplating. Their plan? To use the atrocities as a smokescreen to fake Ben’s death and start a new life together.

It’s a play demanding seriously heavyweight performances: very bold stuff for a fringe theatre company to mount as its debut production.

Rob Watt’s revival for Glowbox is solid: as Ben and Abby, Sean O’Neil and Janine Ingrid Ulfane infuse the pair’s fractious relationship with a sense of death-grip mutual dependency. But while there is intensity, there is no sexual spark between her emotionally defensive ice maiden and his pugnacious loser.

This doesn’t stop Watt’s precise revival articulating the underlying thrust of LaBute’s play – that ‘The Mercy Seat’ isn’t so much about 9/11, as the human capacity to deny personal responsibility. Ben’s belief that 9/11 can wipe the slate clean for him is no more valid than that of the terrorist or president who thinks the same.

A minor revival, but still timely and worthwhile.



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Event phone: 020 7609 1800
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