Writer: Mark Ravenhill
Director: Suba Das
Reviewed by Karen McCandless
If Curve and De Montfort University (DMU) were looking for a controversial play to perform then Mother Clap’s Molly House was a great choice. But being controversial doesn’t always pay off.
First performed in September 2001 at the National Theatre’s Lyttelton Theatre, Mark Ravenhill’s play explores the theme of sexuality. It takes place in London in both 1726 and 2001 (although people probably weren’t still using video cameras then).
In 1726, Mrs Tull has just lost her husband and is left with the task of running the clothing shop that provides dresses to the whores of the town. The whores start to give her problems so she decides to start providing dresses to the ‘Mollys’ instead. It is here where she finally feels like she can become a mother. Then in 2001, Will and Josh (not sure if we ever hear their names though) are having a sex party in their London flat. Predictably, not everyone is as happy with this as they first seem and some people have other issues to deal with.
While the script for the 18th century performance was fine, the modern day scenes added nothing to the play and didn’t even seem to fit with the rest of the story. Whatever point this part was trying to make was lost in stereotypes and clichéd performances and jokes. The humour was so dated. It was like being back in the days of Benny Hill and Are You Being Served. Maybe the problem is that society and attitudes towards sex have moved on so much in the 13 years since this play was first performed. And just using a large amount of swear words – including frequent use of the most taboo word of all – doesn’t make a play clever or mean it is pushing any boundaries.
Putting the script aside, when the play was first performed in 2001 while critics were split over the content of the play, they almost unanimously praised Nicholas Hytner’s direction. So here was an opportunity to make this a success. Maybe Curve and DMU did the best they could with the script but it had the air of a school play about it. The acting and dancing were ok at best while the singing and music were average.
But the final dance performance at the end – performed, rather obviously, to Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ – wouldn’t even have made it onto an episode of Britain’s Got Talent. It was a poor way to end the show. Why the band were dressed up as glam rock musicians from the 1980s was also never made clear.
The worst thing was that the play proceeded to drag on for two and a half hours when it could have been over in half the time. Definitely one to avoid.
Photo: REDPIX | Runs until 15th March