The Carnivore Reviews: Fear
Ever wondered what you’re really worth? The two young robbers in Fear can tell you, can identify labels and your Cartier Watch from metres away. Kieran (Aymen Hamdouchi) and Jason (Jason Maza) prowl around the Bush’s stage, all intimidation and aggression, sizing up their prey.
But the statement Dominic Savage wants to make is about greed, what we want rather than what we are worth, materially speaking. And he shows this by choosing to concentrate on extremes; rich and poor, money-man and thief, or to give them names, Gerald and Kieran. So, it’s about money, money, money and despite background, luck and choices, everyone wants more than they have and we all have that in common.
Savage is known for his collaborative film making, starting with broad scenes which are then worked on through improvisation with the actors, and he has inevitably applied this process to Fear. This might explain why the plot is predictable, and the characters rather more developed.
So collaboration makes character and Savage, a film and TV writer and director, and his cast may revel in the fact that each performance in the theatre is different. But giving the actors the freedom of choosing where to go during a performance means that the play suffers from a heightened pitch that should have been reigned in. The play elevates to a certain level and then stays there, right about the time that Kieran and Gerald meet.
There is a lot of shouting and swearing from the start, meaning that an outburst or a release is less effective when it is needed, and becomes just more battering to your senses. Louise Delamere’s Amanda, the pregnant wife of Gerald tells her husband not to swear, because the baby can hear, but later when she’s grieving, she has to swear to express it and this moment is in danger of the audience being resistant to its weight.
In a post-show talk with the cast and director, Savage said that he wanted to ask Can we change? But when you’re showing two extremes, does this question really relate to the people in the middle – probably most of the people who are in the audience. In the play, the question of whether Kieran can change only comes after he has killed, or perhaps after he has seen what has been cruelly left behind by the death of that person. And we don’t see this change happen, the play leaves it open. It goes as far as Kieran arguing with the ghost of Gerald which then impels him to go to Amanda’s home to tell her that her baby will be born into a good world, when he, and the audience, clearly can’t believe it.
Like a drum that’s being hit louder and harder Fear is not without power. Hamdouchi’s Kieran is a brooding presence, angry and hating life and Ed Clarke’s sound design pulsing beneath the dialogue keeps the mood dark and brings out something of the volatility of the world. But it’s hard to feel satisfied that the problem is really worked out in front of us. Yes, it’s demonstrated through the characterisation, with all the harsh reality the dialogue can muster, but the question of whether people can change is dropped in more than half way through the play and then just left hanging.
Like Savage’s True Love BBC series, somehow there is something missing and in the end it’s all a bit hollow.
- Anna Sladen
Fear runs at the Bush Theatre until 14 July. Read the reviews here.