Stockholm @ Hampstead Theatre, London

cast list
Samuel James
Georgina Lamb

directed and choreographed by
Scott Graham andSteven Hoggett
Kali and Todd are in love. Kali and Todd are very happy, thank you. And not just happy actually, but dripping with bliss. How could they not be? Their lives are pretty near perfect: they live in a lovely big house with a knocked through kitchen-cum-living space (complete with Smeg fridge), have lots of great sex and have just booked a trip away together to Stockholm. But thats to come; thats tomorrow. Before that theyve planned a romantic night in, to mark Todds birthday.

Frantic Assemblys two-hander, first performed at the Drum Theatre Plymouth last year, is a powerful piece of theatre, funny, shocking, erotic and chilling. There is real harmony between Bryony Laverys poetic script and the techniques of physical theatre that the company favours; a synergy between the visual and the verbal that is all too rare.

The performers Georgina Lamb as Kali, Samuel James as Todd use dance and movement to convey the erotic charge between the couple, as they indulge in a sex act on the stairs or stand in their glossy kitchen reminiscing about the first night they met. These sequences arent at all jarring, instead they add to the sense of this couples too-intense relationship. We see them writhing on the kitchen counter, hands all over the others bodies, practically devouring each other in the process.

But it soon becomes clear that this perfect existence of theirs has something rotten at its foundations. At Kalis behest, Todd ignores letters and phone calls from his parents, and the couple are slowly cutting themselves off from their friends too. After all, they have each other, so why on earth would they need anyone else? Even their answer machine message is hostile to outsiders. They are the living embodiment of Stockholm Syndrome; they are hostages to one other. Unable and unwilling to break free despite the danger, despite the fact that the merest mention of one of Todds past lovers causes jealously to bubble up in Kali like bile, despite the fact that she regularly checks his mobile phone for texts and missed calls from unfamiliar numbers. Their passion teeters on a thread, and it doesnt take much to tip it over into anger, into violence, for their ravenous embraces to be replaced with fists and kicks.

Frantic Assemblys Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett direct and choreograph the piece, creating a sense of growing emotional unease and physical danger. The production has a remarkable cohesiveness, with both the words and visuals, set design and music all coming together to create an experience that is unsettling but engaging one of the most satisfying things that Ive seen in a while.

Within its 70 minutes the production takes you on a journey into this couples dark little world, it takes you beneath the gleaming surface of their romantic afternoon trips to the cinema and their expensive, polished home, beneath the sheen of perfection. The little references to horror films that crop up are particularly appropriate as there is real horror here. These are prisons that people create for themselves. Towards the end we even get a glimpse of the couples future, a future thats frightening, but somehow inevitable. Their paths are pre-set, they cant help themselves. Though their relationship is harming them, neither can leave, neither can pull away.

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