Phillip Ridley is a man of many talents. Known best for his work as a playwright, he has also produced works for children, adult novels, poetry and art works. He’s one of those people who are sickeningly talented at every medium they turn their hand to.

His play The Fastest Clock in the Universe has just taken up residence in Angel’s endearingly tiny Old Red Lion Theatre. Originally premiered in 1992, the play remains darkly funny and impressively topical. It centres on egotistical, vain and controlling Cougar Glass, who is obsessed with maintaining his fading youth and concocting plans to seduce teenage boys. His devoted partner Captain has been drawn into helping create the elaborate plans, in hopes of earning a little affection.

The play is tense from the outset; its whole two hour duration depicts the events of one evening, in one location. It’s the night of a carefully constructed birthday party, designed to ensnare Foxtrot, a handsome school boy, into Cougar’s grasp. When Foxtrot arrives with a straight talking girlfriend in tow, the careful pretence of the evening begins to unravel…

…the play unfolds like an East End fairytale…

Ridley’s own London upbringing is evident throughout the play. Set above a closed down factory in east London, the play unfolds like an East End fairytale, with the moral stance becoming darkly twisted as the story unfolds. In place of a warning lesson, the play offers a dark take on the value of beauty.  Occasional moments of comic relief are shattered by deviant confessions and furtive conversations.

The play feels voyeuristic in places; at the outset when the audience is privy to Cougar’s planning, and throughout the play’s many sexual revelations. The intimate setting gives a fly on the wall feel to the whole event, grounding a play that could otherwise feel fantastical, in a reality that only makes it feel more uncomfortable.

…The key theme of the play is obsession…

Ridley’s writing is incredibly poetic, with carefully interwoven metaphors featuring furriers and flocking birds. Stories are part woven and left half finished, to be returned to later. Each of the characters has carefully constructed monologues, spouting forth a range of opinions on the value of tradition, beauty and love. The key theme of the play is obsession, with each character fixating on a different goal – whether it’s recapturing their youth, achieving happiness or accepting their fate. Cougar’s outlook on life is captured with his exclamation “Fuck the milk of human kindness and welcome to the abattoir!”

It’s a very interesting play to watch, presenting powerful insights on the ‘human condition’. Inspired in the early nineties by the rise of metrosexuality, the play has only become more relevant to modern audiences. The fixation with sex and beauty makes for an interesting watch and raises numerous talking points. A tense first half gives way to a dramatic turn that leaves the audience gasping at the grand finale, that stays with you long after you leave the theatre.

Arts_4_5 Stars4.5 Stars

Tuesday 5 November  – Saturday 30 November 2013

Tuesday- Saturday at 7:30pm

Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3pm

Tickets £17.00 (£14.00 Conc.)

Previews and Sunday’s £10

About The Author

Graduated Bristol UWE with a degree in Media Practice - since then I've been working in TV and travelling as much as possible. I'm a bookworm, I watch a lot of movies, and I have a major addiction to baking.

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