James Fritz was responsible for the unsettling Ross and Rachel, an inky unpicking of rom-com cliches and one of the new writing highlights of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Now his earlier play, first presented in Hampstead Theatre’s Downstairs space last year, is being revived in the West End. It’s not as formally adventurous as Ross and Rachel, but it is a tightly constructed piece of writing: taut and topical, layering revelation on top of revelation.
Teenage Jack has taken a beating at the hands of his girlfriend’s brother. But what begins as a relatively trivial incident quickly begins to spiral. It turns out a sex tape has been uploaded onto the internet and now the family have to deal with the consequences. Fritz deals explicitly with questions of consent and privacy in a way that never lets the audience rest. It constantly asks questions of those watching, resetting itself with every change of scene, the moral lines continually being redrawn.
Anna Ledwich’s production is as taut as the writing. It has a job to do and it does it well. Kate Maravan and Jonathan McGuinness are both excellent as Jack’s parents, alternatively outraged and restrained, while Ria Zmitrowicz gives a bolshie but sympathetic performance as the young woman whose trauma is sidelined as Jack’s parents fret over their son’s future. While the play feels a bit too calculated in places, a bit of a machine, it’s also genuinely provocative in the way it explores the issues at hand.