Bunker Theatre, London – until 26 May 2018
Guest reviewer: Charlotte Darcy
Grotty is a dark, grimy, and vivid exploration of the subcultures of London’s lesbian scene. Focused on the experiences of Rigby (played by Izzy Tennyson herself), a 22-year-old intern at a TV company who also happens to be a drug-addled psychotic, we learn that she has managed to get into a plethora of relationships with women that cover the spectrum of lesbian culture.
Although the play makes for a confused 90 minutes it is not all bad. There is some lovely work from Grace Chilton as Witch, an emotionally and physically scarred dominatrix who delivers a beautiful stillness and vulnerability during a particularly harrowing moment. Anita-Joy Uwajeh, as the wholly unlikable and over-confident Natty, a self-proclaimed bigwig who can pull strings and make anyone an undesirable, is an edgy and bold turn too.
Anna Reid’s set design is effective, proving sufficiently basic and pliable to transform itself from the hazed shapes you’d just be able to discern in a dark club, into a vague flat, post hook-up.
There are some positives here, it is just difficult to understand what the narrative is trying to convey. To market the show as an exploration into lesbian London is a little disingenuous, the fact that Rigby and the other characters are lesbians proving to be irrelevant. It may well have been that when Tennyson set out to write the play, she intended it to open people’s eyes to lesbian culture. But in her finished work it seems that as the script developed, the ideas popping into to Tennyson’s head (LGBT – rape – mental health – suicide – drugs – alcohol – death ) were baldly worked into the text so fleetingly that none of them stayed relevant for long enough to matter.
It is hard to sympathize with a protagonist who continuously complains about her life, grabbing at quick fixes to find validation and self worth and lamenting about having no control, yet refusing to take any. All that is left is a cocaine-riddled millennial, coasting through her narrative as a non-committal, self-centered drain on the people around her, “as long as they have nice flats.”
The end result is a play about nothing in particular. Much like its lead character, Grotty tries to say so much but ultimately, says very little.