Louise Delamere’s pregnant Amanda, all expensive perfumes and lavish chestnut hair, doesn’t want her her rich banker husband (Evans) to swear - she wants to protect the delicate sensibility of a foetus not yet 20 weeks old. In the next scene Kieran’s mother wonders aloud if her son, a nasty rat-faced robber is taking her for a ‘cunt’.
Aymen Hamdouchi (Kieron) and Rupert Evans (Gerald) in Fear at the Bush Theatre, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
Dominic Savage’s first ever stage play is about people with vastly different expectations, jobs, prospects and bank balances but who rub along in the same metropolis. It is on the nose - in both the good and pejorative sense of the term.
Savage has gained something of a reputation with his raw TV dramas such as the BBC2 film Freefall that draw on the underbelly of urban life, and at times this is vastly unsubtle, dallying with social stereotypes in a way that may want you to head for the exit.
The yuppies - Amanda and Gerald - share the same simple stage (all simple white, wipe-clean surfaces, a bed a table and some chairs) as the robbers. Only they discuss their holidays in a way that seems far from convincing - Gerald feels Dubai is “so sorted” but eventually plumps for Venice for their weekend break. Feral, scowling Kieron has a brutally foul-mouthed mum whose principal preoccupation is that her son stays out of trouble and gets his ‘arse out of bed’ to “go Jobseekers”. It’s not hard to guess that the yuppies’ and Kieran’s paths will cross.
But this play is also on the nose in the sense that it packs a huge punch - it is, at times, utterly dazzling and powerful. Key scenes between the two young robbers carry a genuinely frightening cruelty as they plot and celebrate their victims’ downfall - Jason Maza’s Jason is excellent as the apprentice to Kieran, the latter possessing a perverted Sherlock-style brain with the skill and instincts to size up each victim’s personality and relative wealth from what they wear.
Savage has a talent for two-handers. He gives Gerald and Amanda’s exchanges a crackle of unease, accompanying them with Ed Clarke’s haunting music as the fateful day creeps up - a moment where Savage also seems to have been influenced by the real-life killing of lawyer Tom ap Rhys Pryce in 2006.
Kieran speaks of his hatred of people with far more privileges than him and Savage is clearly intent on questioning who is the robber - him or the banker who can make £12m from one deal. HBO’s classic drama The Wire also seems to be a key influence in this respect too. Of course, Savage sometimes overdoes the soci-political sauce and it is sometimes hard to believe that real robbers are motivated simply by as much anger and class warfare as Kieran is, with Kieran adding in a little Freudian anxieties about whether his mum actually loves him.
But when Savage takes his duo from their self-conscious reflections and focuses on the sexual aggression as well as the nihilism which drives these two out into the night, it seems a far more plausible portrait of modern urban life.
Savage also shows himself to be quite the choreographer, expertly staging the actual robbery with some skill, the two hoodies pirouetting around their target, confident, smelling blood - skilful staging which also helps us experience the victim’s fear and entrapment.
And when the vicious climax comes the power inevitably recedes, a fact not helped by the bizarre coda which deploys the supernatural to create scenes where Kieran’s crimes are revisited upon him.
So as a piece of social realism this has serious flaws. As a piece of raw theatre theatre packing an emotional punch it is, at times, extremely successful.