When Mercury Fur was being described to me by a friend, she began comparing it to a Sarah Kane play – full of gratuitous violence and awkward swearing: two things I hate to watch, and two things I was utterly dreading. There is a lot of violence (so much so the crew has their own “Blood Designer”), and there is an awful lot of swearing, but it was purposeful, careful and very well executed.
The cast was largely very strong, with Saul Boyer seizing attention from the moment he walked on stage; Robbie Taylor-Hunt being horrifyingly convincing as (in the director’s words) “the only irredeemable character”; and Ruby Zajac managing to bring a vital humanity to the rather bizarre character of the Duchess. But it is Freddie Sawyer who quietly steals the show, with his heart-breakingly honest portrayal of Elliott, assisted by wonderful chemistry with both Julia Kass (Darren – his sister), and David Matthews (Lola – his lover). Whilst there were moments of real intensity where some of the acting fell a little short, on the whole the entire cast worked well with a thoroughly challenging text.
From a technical perspective the lighting was utterly stunning at times – with my personal favourites being the television, the hallucination, and the gradual fade as the night drew closer. At other moments the use of lighting did feel a bit futile or awkward, but these are sure to be more down to opening-night technical issues than anything else. This was much the case for the music as well, in general the soundtrack was very well chosen, with an almost cinematic quality – which was incredibly powerfully in some scenes, but then came across as a little overworked at other points. However, these small criticisms are quickly overshadowed by the more effective moments, such as the closing scene which managed to create an intense vastness to the small Corpus stage, and was one of the best collaborative uses of light and sound I have seen.
Overall Ridley’s script is wonderful, filled with astutely plotted characters, and wickedly vivid writing. The climactic, violent attack was incredibly well-handled with an unnerving calmness on stage, juxtaposed against the noises from behind the door. It is Justin Wells’s canny use of contrasts throughout the play, in terms of light, sound, pace, and spacing which makes the production so effective overall. Wells has made a fantastic directorial debut, drawing stunning performances from his actors, creating a show that is well worth watching.