Hot Mess @ Hawke and Hunter, Edinburgh

cast list
Gwendolen Chatfield, Michael Whitman, Solomon Mousley, Kerri Hall

directed by
Ella Hickson
Ella Hicksons latest play for the fringe, her third, has a mythical quality.

Polo and Twitch are twins, but they only have one heart between them. Twitch loves too much, Polo not enough. They live on a tiny island, five miles by two, which is slowly being lost to the sea.

Twitch leaves a mark on very man she desires: a scar, a scald, torn skin. She believes love should last, that it should leave an indelible stain. This is in direct contrast to Polos childhood friend Jax, who gets a thrill from casual sex. She likes the anonymity of it, the adrenaline surge, and takes comfort in the knowledge that she doesnt have to see them again if she chooses not to; if they ask for her phone number, she declines to give it.
Polo has returned to the island for his (and Twitchs) birthday, having left, escaped; during his time away Twitch has met and fallen for Billy, a charming American, and only the second man she has allowed herself to become physically involved with. The four of them, Polo, Twitch, Billy and Jax, head out to a nightclub, the site of many a sexual conquest and drunken stumble, a scene of elation and humiliation fused. There is drink, there is dancing; there is an ill-advised homage to the late Patrick Swayze.

Staged in a subterranean section of Edinburgh nightclub Hawke and Hunter, with strips of neon imbedded in the floor and music supplied by a DJ, this is a confident production with something to say, about sex and love and the space in between. Hickson is interested in how people negotiate their relationships, sexual or otherwise, in what theyre looking for, what they want from one another.

The play is more poetic in voice than its predecessor. The compelling Precious Little Talent was a more naturalistic piece and its clear that Hickson is pushing herself stylistically. Shes helped by a strong cast, all familiar faces from her debut, Eight. Gwendolen Chatfield and Michael Whitham play the twins, her open and needy, him prim and stiff, arch-eyebrowed. Kerri Hall is particularly memorable as the brash Jax, teetering on neon pink heels, vulnerability concealed by an abundance curves and Lycra and confidence; Solomon Mousley completes the quartet with an understated turn as Billy.

For all its many strengths this feels like a play with a split personality, stubbornly tugging in two different directions. It seems to be trying to be both an interrogation of contemporary sexual mores and a more lyrical and poetic piece about human connection.

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