Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | Penetrator at the Hope Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | Penetrator at the Hope Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | Penetrator at the Hope Theatre
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20 Aug REVIEW: Penetrator at the Hope Theatre

For Max and Alan (and their teddies, Kevin and Perry), life is just one long blur of getting stoned, masturbating furiously and playing games of “Come on her Tits” with a set of pornographic playing cards. It’s an arrangement that works, Alan doing the shopping, making the tea and cleaning their flat (the kind that could only dream of being called a student hovel), whilst Max, well, sits there. That is, until Tadge arrives, an old school friend-turned-squaddie full of fantastical (and rather distressing) stories about his experiences, sporting a blood-stained t-shirt and an unnerving gaze.

Penetrator01Like a brutal mix of those BT broadband adverts and Trainspotting (yes, really), Penetrator’s trio of objectionable wasters are brought convincingly to life by Jolyon Price, Tom Manning and in particular Alexander Pardey, absorbing in their performances and astutely pitched. A play that’s in turn disturbing, endearing and laugh-out-loud funny, a vivid soundscape and high-energy delivery pave the way for a pacey 75 minutes that feel a lot more like 45.

The very definition of “in yer face theatre,” Anthony Neilson’s 1993 script is updated and made relevant to twenty first century life, albeit with a series of shoehorned-in references, providing a metaphorical knuckleduster for a play that already doesn’t so much pack a punch, as pack an entire boxing match, starting with an opening sequence that more than sets the tone for the piece, as audibly explicit as it’s probably possible to be, crude and uncomfortable for even the most liberal of audience members.

With c-bombs and pornographic audio galore, sound designer and director Phil Croft’s production certainly delivers on impact. But whilst max-ing out the shock factor is one thing when it serves as a medium for delivering an important message or for asking a fascinating question, it’s something else entirely when it’s shocking for the sake of being shocking, and Penetrator appears to be the latter. This isn’t a gripe about the gritty nature of the play – the arts can, and should, sometimes be unsavoury – but there’s an aching pointlessness to it all, with attitudes left unchallenged, directly or through irony or inference.

By virtue of the content alone, this reviewer was never going to fall in love with any production of Penetrator. Gratuitously crude, it feels like more of a happy slap than the firm fist of reality dawning, but with a collection of strong acting performances, a well-judged soundscape and a darkly humorous script, this all makes for a ferociously compelling play.

For tickets and information:
Venue: Hope Theatre
Dates: 4th – 22nd August 2015
Image: Toby Lee

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here