Theatre review: Stitching, Glasgow

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ABBY and Stu are on the sofa in their flat, trying to make a decision. They’ve been together a while, their relationship is not in good shape, but now Abby is pregnant and they have to decide whether they have a future together.

Stitching

Glasgow Tron Theatre

* * * *

So far, so ordinary; but of all the sofa plays ever written, Anthony Neilson’s nightmare vision of what happens to Abby and Stu, first seen at the Traverse in 2002, must be the most extreme, and the most honest about the fierce nexus of erotic and sadistic obsession that can bind couples together, and drive them apart.

Flickering between the couple’s moment of decision, and a time some years on when they meet only to pretend that they are a prostitute and client indulging in violent fantasies, the play conjures up a sense of terrible damage done, of people trapped in a pornographic culture, inflicting pain to drown out the agony in their minds.

Towards the end of this blistering one-hour drama, Neilson begins to fill the gaps in the story; there’s a sense of utter, barren loss. And all this is captured with impressive clarity, and a wonderful, free-flowing theatrical energy, in Mark Westbrook’s shoestring staging for Delirium Productions, which features two beautifully-pitched performances from Catriona Evans and Tom Moriarty.

There is the odd moment of tightly-observed humour; and sometimes, the erotic and emotional charge is so intense that the audience can only cope by continuing to laugh. In truth, though, Neilson’s brilliant play is sad, disturbing, timely and really, not funny at all.