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Theatre reviews

Mercury Fur

Mercury Fur

Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh

Neil Cooper

Like Britpop, the resurgence of interest in the 1990s wave of "in-yer-face" theatre among a new generation perhaps points up a lack of anything else to grab hold of, however much some of the originals might have faked it. If playwright Philip Ridley was at the vanguard of that Thatcher-inspired storming of the barricades, this revival of his most controversial work from 2005, by St Andrews University-sired Riot Productions in association with Edinburgh's Black Dingo company, makes clear that its brutal mix of gangster movie iconography and dystopian future-shock has lost none of its edge.

Twenty-something Elliot bursts into an abandoned flat at the play's start like he's seeking sanctuary from a war zone. In fact, Elliot is pushing a rare and transformative drug that comes in the form of butterflies, and he and his brother Darren are alternative party planners for adrenaline-junky city boys who want to live out Vietnam fantasies.

In this case, that includes raping and killing young boys dressed as Las Vegas era Elvis. Throw into the mix the baroque sentimentalism of gangster Spinks, who tends to a blind grande dame who believes she's in The Sound Of Music, and an entire society seems to be living a bad dream.

Director Jocelyn Cox draws a nuanced set of performances from her cast of eight. From the way Elliot and Darren play Wild West games to the way they put their hands on each other's chests to hear them pound with life, this is a heartbreaking dispatch from Broken Britain, where a collective yearning for something better is as desperate as they come.

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