Bad Jazz



NO ART exists without artifice, so why are artists obsessed with authenticity? This dichotomy is at the heart of Robert Farquhar's filthy and extremely funny satire, which viciously dissects the pretensions of a fundamentally bourgeois theatre culture.

The action centres on two actors, Natasha and Danny, and their director Gavin, who are rehearsing a gritty sex'n'drugs drama. Each aspires to some elusive sense of "truth", yet all are painfully aware of - and desperate to hide - their social distance from the world of the play. Even the playwright has little idea what she's trying to say. All are exaggerated caricatures, yet their dilemma is easily recognisable in a British theatre dominated by the middle classes.

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As Louis Hilyer's histrionic Gavin urges his cast towards self-abandonment and commitment to the project, so the walls dividing real from make-believe grow flimsier. But the question is, are Natasha and Danny genuinely surrendering themselves to their art or are they allowing themselves to be manipulated by a charlatan? Is the spontaneity demanded by Gavin an expression of profound truth or just a jarring chaos, like the bad jazz on the soundtrack?

Ingeniously constructed from punchy dialogue and self-regarding monologues, Farquhar's script builds to a climax that is simultaneously dramatic and ridiculous.

In Gordon Anderson's confident, brisk production for London's ATC company, Leah Muller and Neil Stuke give game, beautifully judged performances as the two actors, and there isn't a false note struck by the supporting cast.

Perhaps Farquhar's most barbed irony is that it's the prosaic arts administrator (Laura Macaulay) who gives the most unaffected response in the play, by throwing up at a crucial moment.