WRITER Oliver Emanuel acknowledges the inspiration of John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's A Whore and Jean Luc Godard's Band a Part in the text of this piece for his own company. He might also nod towards two contemporary novelists: Ian McEwan, whose novel of incestuous desire, The Cement Garden, was made cinema by Andrew Birkin, and Martin Amis, from the pages of whose early novels the character of Donny could easily have stepped. This is a mighty team of antecedents and I'm not sure Emanuel quite does them justice. Director Dan Bye is, however, so in thrall to the notion of the play as French new-wave cinema for the stage that he and lighting designer Ben Pacey impose a jump cut staccato staging on the script that rather labours the point.

So far, so Edinburgh Fringe, where Bella was much admired. What lifts the show above its similarly shoestring peers is the quality of the performances. Grae Cleugh makes a nourishing meal of Donny, dashes of Welles and a soupcon of Hancock in the mix. Sally Kent as sister Bella is no mere foil - this is her story and she knows it - and Nicholas Cowell makes here movie-fan accountant boyfriend Philip much more than the sum of the ingredients he is given. That it is hard to empathise with any of them is Emanuel's fault: as his extended description of in utero soixante-neuf best illustrates, he is more in love with the possibilities of language than character.

Loading article content