Gut – Milton Court Theatre, London

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writer: Frances Poet

Director: Kate Budgen

For a parent, where is the line between safety and danger; should you allow your child to make their
own mistakes or protect them from every possible harm? Is every stranger a threat or merely a
Samaritan waiting to help? A Bruntwood Prize nominee, Gut by Frances Poet asks many of these
questions as a young couple face their fears before they’ve even truly defined them.

Maddy and Rory are devoted parents to three-year old Joshua and as the play begins, they’ve
returned from a precious weekend alone only to discover his grandmother Morven has permitted an
ill-judged encounter with a stranger. Deeply concerned by what might have occurred during those few
unaccounted- for minutes Maddy’s imaginings rapidly escalate and she starts to isolate herself and
her son from the outside world. As Rory watches in despair, just who or what is the real threat to
Joshua’s safety?

Safeguarding is the issue of the moment in schools and universities, making this Guildhall School of
Music and Drama revival at the Milton Court Studio Theatre extremely timely. But Poet’s superb 2018
play is also a shrewd and exciting choice for this final year student production, combining as it does
an intriguing set of characters, a burning and complex central debate and is the very latest in new
writing, a chance to perform outside of the classical canon and established modern classics that
drama schools so often lean on.

Director Kate Budgen’s production begins with the easy simplicity of domestic drama, but after a
crucial revelation that palpably changes the temperature of the first scene it adopts the pace and
tension of a thriller as Maddy’s deteriorating psychological state is charted. It is a gripping production
and while the hysteria builds well, Budgen never pits the audience against Maddy but uses the play’s
quick-fire structure to show how rapidly thoughts, feelings and behaviours can escalate alarmingly.

As Maddy, Sophie Doyle has the lion’s share of the performance and a far broader experience of fear,
concern and obsession to present. The initial shock and over-reaction are pointed, while Doyle’s
finest moment is the breathless mania of a key confessional scene in the final third of the play that
induced plenty of shocked gasps. There is also a hardness and obstinacy in Maddy that Doyle finds,
refusing to yield to her husband or mother-in-law, but in the middle sections Doyle might considering
varying the severity of Maddy’s reactions to the numerous strangers she encounters in order to
reserve a little in the tank for later.

Mackenzie Heynes expresses Rory’s more balanced concern really well, remaining rational and
proportionate in the face of his wife’s increasingly extreme behaviour. Bella Maclean playing Rory’s
mother captures the more trusting personality of a different era and growing in strength as she tries to
assume control of the family, while David Buttle brings a subtle threat to the variety of strange men
that Maddy encounters, treading a fine line between helpful and sinister even as a Police Officer.

In this Milton Court Theatre production, the emphasis is on the maternal instinct to identify and ward
off threats to a child, a gut instinct to protect that quickly sours into something ultimately more
damaging, gives Gut a touch of Bryony Lavery’s Frozen in its exploration of a mother’s worst fears
and even a scene that nods to A Clockwork Orange. A very good choice of play and a fine production
that has much to say about parental trust, retribution and forgiveness.

Runs util 11 February 2020

The Reviews Hub Score

Shrewd and exciting

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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