Tough Time, Nice Time @ Barbican Pit, London


Jon Haynes
David Woods
Two men sit together in a tub in a Bangkok bathhouse. They sip beer and they talk. And they talk. For 70 minutes. Thats the set up for the new production from two man theatre company Ridiculusmus and, strange and static as it is, its also quite a fascinating, a repellent yet compelling watch.

The two men, played by Jon Haynes and David Woods, are both ex-pats, Germans. One is a lawyer, the other a hack writer of some description, a married man in Bangkok for sex. They dont know each other, have little in common, bar a shared nationality, and the audience have little idea what has drawn them together. Their meandering conversation is peppered with film references and cynical jokes, it is sometimes shocking, sometimes banal.

The lawyer, Martin, is keen to tell his story to the writer, to share his past. But, if theres a theme at all in this piece, its that stories and the telling of them, are subject to all manner of factors. Truth is a loose concept.

The writer, Stefan, is fascinated with atrocities and drops in references to the holocaust with the same easy flippancy he discusses the plot of The Constant Gardner . Later he tells a rambling anecdote that turns out to be borrowed from another movie. They keep returning to a discussion of the law suit surrounding The DaVinci Code and the idea of ownership of stories. A mans past becomes little more than Hollywood back story, the lines are purposefully blurred.

Having performed together for 15 years, Haynes and Woods have a strong rapport, and the dialogue, both in the way it is written and the way it is delivered, has a rare realness to it. The looping repetitiveness of their lines, speckled with pop culture references, has the feel of real speech.

As the Barbican website and box office are at pains to point out this is an adult show with adult themes. There is much talk of Martins past as a rent boy and of the Thai sex trade, of men bleeding to death on carpets, but this is not to say it is not a show without humour; it is actually very funny in places, though it goes without saying the comedy is of the very darkest kind.

Having spent over an hour in the company of these two individuals, one comes out feeling a little grubby, a little unclean, and wondering exactly, what the point of the whole exercise was. Stories are commodities; our pasts are not our own. Real horrors and celluloid fictions can bleed together in our memories. It ends abruptly, more stories to come. I understood all that but needed a little more from them, to justify the time spent in their company.

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