Review – Kiss, Cuddle, Torture (revisited)

Nov 25 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   Seemingly unanswerable questions

Pamela Shaw, Jacqueline Hannan and Deborah Whyte in Kiss, Cuddle Torture

Pamela Reid, Jacqueline Hannan and Deborah Whyte in Kiss, Cuddle Torture

Adam House
Tuesday 17 November 2013
Review by J. A. Sutherland

Often after reading a novel, a poem or watching a film we can be left asking ‘what was that about?’. On the surface, Black Dingo Productions’ Kiss, Cuddle, Torture is a bleak drama about domestic violence.

But a large amount of this play’s message lies beneath the skin – or more crudely, the bruises. The strength of the writing in Jennifer Adam’s first full-length play is that it doesn’t seek to provide easy answers.

Originally staged during the fringe in the intimate setting of a side chapel of St John’s Church, Princes St, as part of the Just Festival, the production has been imported into the Previously… history festival, along with Creepie Stool and Singin’ I’m no a Billy he’s a Tim. The plays collectively explore, in different ways, issues of sectarianism. It may be easier to spot this in the first two pieces, but the issue is subtlely understated in Kiss, Cuddle, Torture.

It begins with a soliloquy – the first of several given by each of the three female characters over the course of the play – as Deborah Whyte’s Lynn describes the perils of spiralling debt. This may or may not be the root cause of the violence later revealed; it is not stated. The weighty start to the action is soon lightened by Sue, played by Jacqueline Hannan with great humour and compassion. The fast-paced vernacular dialogue, naturally managed by both women, is funny enough to create real empathy between them and, vitally, with the audience.

All this changes with the arrival of Lucy, a supply teacher, drafted into a school in its death throes. For some reason she ends up assisting the other two women in their work as cleaners. This, while unexplained, is a clever twist that allows the exploration of the relationship between the three women. From the start Pamela Reid displays an internal pain harboured by Lucy that is eventually revealed in her final, devastating, soliloquy.

A complex combination of hope and despair,

In the larger playing-space of Adam House the actors occasionally seem a little lost, although first-time director Kirsty Boyle should be congratulated on taking on two challenging venues. When sat around the small table stage right, or delivering each soliloquy from the sofa far left, the distancing works best. In the latter, each woman’s painful revelation of the truth they are hiding from one another is delivered with pathos, although some pace is lost at the scene-changes.

Understandably, there is a very different dynamic when the sole male character appears on stage. In the original production a sympathetic male character was provided in the role of a School Janitor, but he has been cut from this production. James Moyles is left the unenviable task of playing the boorish, angry Jim. Though a visibly undeveloped character, Moyles gives Jim enough menace to allow Hannan’s reactions to his behaviour show, rather than tell, something about what goes on behind closed doors, off stage.

There is, in the heightened realism of this play, something of the former Play for Today, and in this respect the piece suits a History Festival, despite its contemporary tenor. Whatever the purpose, message, or underlying theme, the central but least-answered question is, why are men violent towards the women they supposedly love? The real question to ponder here is how we can truly address the underlying causes that refuse to relegate acts of violence against women to history.

Although the play ends with a complex combination of hope and despair, Jennifer Adam has dared to ask a seemingly unanswerable question. And that, perhaps, is what this play is about.

Running time 1 hr 5 mins
Tuesday 19 November 2013 7pm.
Adam House, 3 Chambers Street Edinburgh EH1 1HT

The original version of Kiss Cuddle Torture was reviewed on Æ here: :


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