'Step 9 (of 12)' review or 'Hammer to the heart.'

'Step 9 (of 12)', Rob Hayes
New Britannia Theatre, Friday 15th July
Written for Time Out

Alan Vicary, Mark Weinman and Lesley Curtis

A shaky staircase meant Rob Hayes’ first play, ‘A Butcher of Distinction’, switched venues at the last minute. 'Step 9 (of 12)’ was meant to be site specific but a leaking roof forced director Gabriel Vick to relocate to the pub next door, now home to the New Britannia Theatre. Thankfully, Hayes’ robust writing could stand up just about anywhere and it can’t be long before he progresses to sturdier locations.

The crumbling venue - faded and dusty, with furniture on the brink of collapse – actually suits Hayes’ dangerous comedy nicely. Amidst the sparse squalor sits Keith, a recovering addict, now seeking forgiveness from his foster parents. There’s an awful lot to forgive. Keith caused a kid to ‘shit like a frightened hamster’ for a week, bludgeoned an old man into a coma and even ‘wet his tip’ with his foster mum.

This could’ve become far-fetched but Hayes’ acidic humour and natural, instinctively paced dialogue stop the play spilling into melodrama. Hayes has a rare talent for creating frighteningly powerful characters who remain spine-tinglingly tangible, despite their extraordinary actions. 

Mark Weinman is mesmerizingly mercurial as Keith; intensely threatening one moment and Bambi-esque vulnerable the next. The parents’ parts are slightly stiff but, sitting at opposite ends of their son’s sorry sofa, they neatly represent the two extremes of the parenting spectrum. Soft dad Alan leans anxiously towards his son, whilst ‘proud-jawed’ mum sits stiff and removed. One of them forgives too easily and the other can never forget.


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