This show finished on Friday 03 November 2023, and this page is being kept for archival purposes only.
Slash is a stylised pressure cooker black comedy that draws upon the tropes of dark academia, murder mysteries, horror and highschool movies, to explore themes of friendship, secrecy, and revenge. The play follows three friends and one stranger, Danny, Tom, Billie and Alex, who find themselves locked into the boys’ toilets at a school reunion. What initially seems like an amusing coincidence quickly turns into something sinister, when the foursome discover the murdered body of another of their school friends, along with a clue to a dark and hidden event from their past. Realising it is no accident that they have all been trapped, the only way to unravel the mystery of the present is to delve into one from their past. As they are forced to dig up things that they had long since tried to bury, tensions rise and lifelong friendships are tested. It might not just be their relationships that do not survive the experience.
Actor (Alex) Charlie Mitchell
Actor (Billie) Ruth Maley
Actor (Tom) Gordon Stackhouse
Director / Assistant Writer Minnie Cross
Lighting Designer Freya Game
Producer India Hunter
Set Assistant Louis Handley
Set Designer Em Leites McPherson
Sound Assistant Amelia Brenan
Stage Manager Charly Grant
Tech Manager / Sound Designer Martha Barrow
Writer / Assistant Director Huw Turnbull
Friday 03 November - By Marina Funcasta for Corr Blimey
Set in a boy’s bathroom littered with smutty glow-in-the-dark vandalisms, Slash emerges as a play which seeks to reveal the inner etchings of what is locked away, the goings-on behind closed doors. Brilliant in its originality, Turnbull’s writing disentangles to leave a train of questions which, though answered at points in arbitrary and seemingly sensationalist ways, nevertheless, challenge the conversational parameters which a school public toilet tends to lend itself to. Blending relationships reminiscent of Donna Tartt’s Secret History, a sense of Pinteresque claustrophobia, directed meticulously by Minnie Cross, and acting modelled off figures like Natasha Lyonne, if there’s anything to be noted about Slash, is its entertainment value.
Walking into Bedlam, squinting to read the lascivious words graffitied on the ‘walls’, with Ricky Nelson’s tragically solemn-sounding ‘Lonesome Town’ ringing, I had, admittedly, some doubts as to the nature of what I was about to experience – a tragicomic whodunit rooted in a room which, despite my fairly a limited experience in, I couldn’t help but associate with bad smells, bad hygiene, and, frankly, preferably avoidable sights of sexual organs, is quite a niche to develop a compelling story from. And, though my misgivings regarding scatological references and piss jokes proved well-founded, the relationships which surfaced were sufficiently witty to familiarise the audience with such an unfamiliar space.
To be sure, foregrounded by a school reunion, the decade-old friendship between Tom, Danny and Billie is where a lot of the strengths of Turnbull’s writing lie. Opening the play, Tom, the struggling actor, struts on stage all guns-a-blazing, seemingly empowered by his sudden desire to urinate. This is hilarious given Tom’s subsequently revealed urinal issues, unremittingly drawn out by Leo Odgers’ goading Danny, who triumphs in his teasing. Gordon Stockhouse’s temperamental volatility and restlessness do a lot of work for raising the subtextual tension between the two men, even if it is done too early on perhaps, limiting his emotional trajectory. This noted the initial duologue is probably the most realistic moment of the play, as, despite their adult appearances (Tom, dressed in an all-black, sophisticated turtleneck, and Danny’s seemingly officiated medicine degree), a boisterous and boyish back-and-forth inevitably arises. Stunted, however, by Billie’s timely reveal; emerging from one of the cubicles, Ruth Maley’s sardonic, leonine presence forms the third, grounding element of this unexpected trio.
The quippy remarks paint a family portrait gone wild; Danny is the slightly air-headed, abandonment-fearing youngest; Tom is the attention-seeking middle child, and Billie, the oldest, is the pragmatic ringleader. Despite some unsuccessful attempts to add sexual tension between Billie and Tom, there is an anchored dynamic which all three characters seem to exist and grow from. Not forgetting the apparently high, stolid voice of Owen, the fourth, tragic component of the group, locked in the cubicle adjacent to Billie’s. Despite Owen’s impassive groaning, the setting comes to life when all three reminisce, with Maley’s characters’ backstory proving the most surprising, and the most interesting, having used the boy’s bathroom as a means of hiding from her mother, the headmistress, not much is done with this plot point, which is a shame, as it may have proven useful in connecting elements of wider relationships, and plot.
Nevertheless, in such a fast-paced, plot-driven play, it is understandable that Turnbull’s characters hinge on archetypes. Owen’s apparent death catapults the narrative into an absurd whodunit, opening up the story to an entrance from the inscrutable Alex, played with understated menace by Charlie Mitchell. The four characters revolve around the space almost like a carousel, dropping each other off at points of suspicion, seemingly prepared to stab each other in the back if it means clearing their name. Cross keeps these moments dynamic, sectioning the space so that tribalistic, polarised points are built into the geography of the bathroom, converting it, briefly, into a battleground.
The use of set was key to achieving this dualistic ‘penis politics’ arena; in a play built between urinals, Tom, Danny and Alex, as expected, urinate at different points of the play in humorously characteristic, though sometimes provoking, styles. With the aid of a strategically sized board, the act is performed practically full frontal. However, though certainly performed with comedic effect during the opening duologue, wherein Billie’s presence is still withheld, by Alex’s entrance, it is hard to overlook the gender dynamics of the room; Maley’s Billie doesn’t flinch at the supposed sight of Alex’s penis, which, considering his identity as an enigmatic stranger, is surprising. Mitchell pulls down his trousers, in a declarative, peremptory act of exposure, which seems self-indulgent, especially when announcing ‘nothing to see here’.
Though the audience’s suspension of disbelief is momentarily suspended during moments like these, Turnbull’s plot nevertheless sweeps us back up again. In this sense, the tension is maintained, and the shock factor is built to culminate in the final plot twist, performed to a wave of gasps from the audience. If this isn’t evidence enough as to the compelling elements of Turnbull’s script, then the murmured “oh my” from the lady next to me should do the trick – shocking, engaging, although somewhat unambitious, Slash does what a play needs to do, and does it well.