It made a lot of headlines, but what it was that caused an audience member to “faint” during a preview of Martin Crimp’s new play at the National is hard to fathom.
True, there’s plenty of weird sado-masochism on display in the double garage where the story unfolds, but it’s no worse than anything you might stumble across on Netflix.
Maybe it was the sight of Cate Blanchett dressed as a maid squirting the Audi parked on the stage with shaving foam. Surely some contravention of motoring etiquette.
Blanchett is, of course, the reason that tickets for this sold-out show were allotted by ballot. She’s the reason that the queue for day tickets starts at about 3am in sub-zero temperatures (it’s true, I know someone who did it).
She and Stephen Dillane play a couple who – along with some invited friends – act out an S&M fantasy based upon Samuel Richardson’s 18th Century novel Pamela.
The sexual power shifts constantly between the two, both of whom are in stockings and suspenders. Genders, clothes, wigs and bodily fluids are swapped. Blood is spilt.
The intimate Dorfman Theatre is perfect for this kind of stuff. Under Katie Mitchell’s direction, it’s thrilling to see Blanchett and Dillane giving it their all up close. Jessica Gunning is excellent too in the Mrs Jewkes housekeeper role.
But the sexual power play just goes on and on. It feels like a 10 minute drama workshop stretched out to two hours.
I was desperately hoping for the garage sex games to be interrupted by a neighbour coming round to borrow a ladder.
And I don’t mean one in Dillane’s stockings.