Review: The Fastest Clock in the Universe

This play, by Philip Ridley, was billed as an exploration of the ache of ageing but failed to offer a single insight on the subject. In a dingy flat somewhere in East London the spotlight was on Cougar Glass (Seth Kruger), a narcissistic hyper-masculine gay teenager whose middle-aged manservant Captain Tock (Ryan Monk) fawns and fusses over him, desperate to earn his affection. But the Captain is cruelly kept at arm’s length by Cougar who has his sights on a far more enticing prospect: the fifteen-year-old schoolboy Foxtrot Darling.

The frustratingly minimal plot meant the responsibility lay on the shoulders of the larger-than-life characters to carry the play but here again there was little substance. Kruger’s Cougar was one-dimensional, a preening, arrogant brute in sunglasses who spent fifteen minutes performing elaborate press-ups as the audience filtered in and the second half smouldering on a sofa, clenching his jaw. But there was something slightly awkward and unconvincing about this performance as he could have married such malice with a degree of charm.

The only thing that threatened to give him some depth was his fear of being reminded of his real age and he had even gone to the trouble of smashing up all the clocks in his apartment to avoid this. Yet apart from some melodramatic outbursts, this, the one interesting facet of his personality, was not explored or probed in any way. The play really had nothing interesting to say about ageing apart from the fact that some people are scared of getting old.

Ryan Monk did manage to hint at the inner life of the prim and proper, lovesick Captain whilst Adam Mirsky’s entrance as the gobby, garrulous red-faced schoolboy Foxtrot Darling briefly reenergised the room. But Ola Wetherell’s simplistic Catherine Tate style impression of the ancient Cheetah Bee jarred with the play’s apparent attempt to reach for profundity with characters who were nothing more than archetypes or clichés. By reaching for pure character comedy with the one hand and pseudo-insightful declarations with the other, the play ended up doing neither satisfactorily.

The feeling that nothing in the plot needed resolving meant that the sexual scenes and flashes of intense violence seemed to be there for shock value only. Cougar’s indulgent simulated orgasm, his sudden attack on a pregnant woman and the bizarre decision to show him feeling up a fifteen-year-old, despite the successful sexual allusions that populated the rest of the play, made for excruciating viewing. This was not a matter of prudishness but down to the fact that these moments were so unexpected, unnecessary and out of step with the atmosphere of the rest of the play.

Making something watchable out of such an incoherent and meaningless play was too much of a task for this production. Even if there were no clocks on stage I spent most of the evening looking at my watch.

4/10

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