The Grand Ceremonial


606 Theatere punches all hell out of the nostrums of sexual politics with The Grand Ceremonial at the Lyric Studio
Six-O-Six TC's latest production is a British première of a macabre mid-'60s comedy of manners from the neglected founder of the 'Theatre of Panic', French-domiciled, Spanish playwright Fernando Arrabal. Arrabal's penchant is for rummaging around in the dark recesses of our motives - agh! It's ugly down there! – and it's best to read this play as a dark fairytale played out on the level of the subconscious. The founder team of producer Shane Walter, director Gordon Anderson and designer Tom Hadley has done wonders with a difficult , possibly dated text : it's a compulsive (not to say convulsive), beautifully modulated, unsettling and dementedly funny evening of nightmare.
It starts in Beckett register. Dorian Lough's 'Monster', a hunchback in a shabby dead-man's suit, waits for an aeon on a park bench (accompanied only by the pulsing electronic music of Robin 'Scanner' Rimbaud) before the arrival of Joanna Thirsk's middle-class Sil. This is no meeting-cute: their 'perverse' mating ritual is mapped out in a series of electrifying and beautifully acted gambits and counter-plays of exquisitely absurd logic. Thirsk slowly sheds her apparel.
As the pace hots up, and the tone curdles, we are introduced to the Monster's flat. No wonder he‘s a serial-killer – the blow-up doll-filled flat is presided over by Joanna Bacon‘s Mother (in her platinum crop and vamp dress, Bacon beautifully plays her like a comedic cross between Violet Kray and Cruella de Vil). Now the company launches a black farce of ultra-Ortonesque dimensions which punches all hell out of the nostrums of sexual politics. Arrabal's play makes a murky equation between sex and death, but the final impression is of deep compassion. An eye-opening revival.
Wally Hammond.

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