Review – Kiss Cuddle Torture

Aug 14 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩   Commendably realistic emotion

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

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

Just at St John’s (Venue 127)
Fri 9 – Wed 14, Fri 23 August 2013
Review by Hugh Simpson

Edinburgh writer Jennifer Adam’s first full-length play, Kiss, Cuddle, Torture, is an unsettling exploration of issues surrounding domestic violence.

The play is billed as one of a trio of productions from Black Dingo Productions around issues of sectarianism, but while these issues are implicit in the play, they are far from the surface. Indeed, one of the strengths of this piece is the way it shows that domestic violence is no respecter of creed, class or background.

The three main characters are three women who are employed at a primary school – two as cleaners, and one as a teacher who nevertheless seems to spend much of her time helping with the cleaning. The school represents a refuge from their outside life, but it would appear that outside forces are threatening this haven.

The three actors playing these characters do so commendably, both in their interaction and in the monologues that show us the grief that they are trying to hide from each other. Deborah Whyte as Lynn, a representative of the ‘squeezed middle’ who seems most concerned with how she appears to others, is believable and touching. Pamela Reid, as teacher Lucy, comes across as suitably worn down, only falling short slightly in her difficult final monologue. Jacqueline Hannan, as senior cleaner Sue, oscillates between defiance and despair magnificently. The dialogue is unforced and natural, often with a raw poetry that belies the play’s subject matter.

Unfussy and effective

Kirsty Boyle’s direction is unfussy and effective, achieving a natural feeling. However, this naturalism is sometimes at the expense of the action – occasionally characters obscure each other from the audience, drowning out dialogue. This is particularly noticeable in the case of James J. Robson, whose cameo as janitor Davey seems to be intended as a contrast to the rest of the play, suggesting that there are some decent men about. It is difficult to be sure, however, as his placing on the stage renders much of his dialogue inaudible. There are no such problems with James Moyles, whose Jim is a frighteningly believable bully.

While there are no problems with the distressingly realistic emotion on display, there are some quibbles about the plot. The time scheme seems awry at times, while a decision to close a school would not be taken on the basis of one inspection and be so abruptly handled. Any council which treated its employees the way it does in this play, seemingly terminating contracts at will, withholding payment and reallocating staff apparently on a whim, would find itself on the wrong end of a series of tribunals.

The overall effect of the play is a strong one, however. The ending is particularly strong, resisting any attempt at a pat solution and entirely in keeping with what has gone before. This is not just an ‘issue’ play but a thoroughly human one.

Running time 1 hr 5 mins
Run ends Fri 23 August 2013
Daily until Wed 14, then Fri 23 8.30 pm
Venue 127, Just at St John’s, St John’s Church, Princes St, EH2 4BJ
Tickets from

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  1. Isabella Baronello says:

    I went to see this play and was very impressed by all of its aspect.
    There are two things I disagree with the critic and that is that Pamela Reid fell short on any of her deliveries she made me want to cuddle her and make everything wright for her. The second being unless you have worked as teacher or any other form of employment by the council that is precisely how you are treated.