Menier Chocolate Factory, London – until 5 May 2018
Guest reviewer: Luke Jones
Two prisoners are locked in an Argentinian cell. Hungry, tired, nauseous, bored out of their minds… this critic jots down a handy metaphor for the whole evening. Kiss of the Spider Woman has had many lives (a novel, a play, a film) but one wonders how it passed the high bar of the Menier for another outing.
Sat in this dark, muddy cell is one man jailed for his gay life and another for his political life. Brightly drawn for us are chalk and cheese; gay and straight. This play wants to discuss masculinity… so two cartoon men have been wheeled in to discuss it for an hour and half. Laurie Sansom’s panto direction doesn’t help.
This adaptation (by José Rivera and Allan Baker) is a difficult watch; in that it’s hard to concentrate on trite themes being explored with flat dialogue. It is a rambling sentence with no chance of bail or an interval. The plot, despite a twist, is loose and fails to grip and a suddenly blossoming romance fails to convince.
Someone frequently making reference to “the resistance” and how they love it, believe in it and miss it isn’t dramatic. It’s a classic failing of show me, don’t tell me. It was one of those theatrical evenings where, out of desperate boredom, I lost myself so deeply in my own thoughts and mental wanderings I was almost entertained.
Both Sam Barnett and Declan Bennett are fine actors, but their camp and macho double act here felt more at home in unfunny sketch comedy. Some cheap gags landed with those around me, but for the most part it just felt like they were both just furiously punching flat lines hoping for a bit of life.
The only reprieve and the only place these broad voices, dancing expressions and loud gestures made sense, were Barnett’s character’s monologue retellings of his favourite romantic, melodramatic films.
Jon Bausor’s wonderfully dank cell comes alive with some really impressive projections by Andrzej Goulding. Silhouetted figures from the tales come alive on the wall, dancing around the bricks and across the cell doors. But pretty projections can’t raise this wreck.