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If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You review at Old Red Lion – ‘a caustic character piece’

Alan Mahon and Ammar Duffus in If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You at the Old Red Lion, London Alan Mahon and Ammar Duffus in If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You at the Old Red Lion, London

On a night of drug-fuelled robbery and surprisingly tender romance, two men find themselves hiding out on a rooftop in small town Ireland. The first full length play from writer John O’Donovan, If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You is a caustic character piece exploring love, identity and illegal substances.

Despite the unwieldy title, the play never gets bogged down in the issues it addresses – domestic abuse, poverty, and homophobia among them. Instead, O’Donovan presents a thorny, satisfyingly complicated play of ideas. His world feels rich and fully-formed, packed with bleak humour and believable anecdotes which evoke a crowd of characters beyond the two we see on stage.

Prowling around the confined space, Alan Mahon gives a startling performance as self-described ‘rogue’ Mikey. Mouthy, thuggish, but barely concealing his fragility, he staggers along the line between belligerence and vulnerablity. Opposite him, Ammar Duffus brings a softer edge to the younger Casey. Both carry the scars of their separate but similarly troubled backgrounds.

Derek Anderson’s understated lighting creates a bleary, dreamlike atmosphere, with the fuzzy glow of streetlamps interrupted by the slow-moving blue flicker of patrolling police cars.

Director Thomas Martin establishes a real sense of tension – and vertigo – from the outset, his two protagonists climbing gingerly onto the set’s sharply sloping roof, peering over the edge with a mix of bravado and nervousness. Though the driving energy of that opening becomes increasingly diffuse as the show goes on, their chemistry is never less than absorbing.

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Verdict
Striking design and strong performances pull together the threads of this barbed two-hander
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