Mary Halton reviews The Sluts of Sutton Drive at the Finborough Theatre
The cracking wit of Joshua Conkel’s UK debut at the Finborough is unfortunately not quite enough to make up for its perplexing characterisation, in a dizzying slipside into the dark underbelly of American suburbia. The Sluts of Sutton Drive tells the story of Stephanie Schwartz, downtrodden supermarket cashier and mother of one. Unhappy with her lot in life and feeling increasingly trapped by her demanding son and mysteriously sensitive biker boyfriend, Schwartz resorts to downing Kablammo, a bargain label cleaning solvent, in search of a high. Proceedings become increasingly bizarre after this, with the first half alone managing to bring porn, rape, murder, mutilation and stalking into the mix.
This kind of surreal black comedy works best when anchored by a likeable character and the tragedy of The Sluts of Sutton Drive is that, despite a strong and committed performance from Georgia Buchanan, this is exactly what Stephanie Schwartz is not. The flaw here is in the writing, as Buchanan gives herself wholly to the task, whether drinking Kablammo or re-enacting a Kate Bush video with best friend Sharice (Kelly Burke). One cannot help but wonder, as Schwartz herself asks at one point, why so many people love this woman. She rails against those trying to be kind to her and, with the only chance of understanding her complicated relationship with her son emerging far too late, her treatment of him seems tantamount to cruelty.
n spite of this, Sluts is undoubtedly funny (even sneaking in a well-placed ‘Twilight’ barb), and is rescued in part by an excellent cast. Burke’s Sharice is the true heart of the play, bringing desperately needed pathos and a tender touch to the bizarre goings on. James Hillier gains the most laughs as Schwartz’s hilariously misunderstood and sexually frustrated biker boyfriend, and Eric Kofi Abrefa makes himself heard amidst the madness. Matt Steinberg shines as the awkward Mailman.
It is unclear exactly what this play is trying to achieve – the belly laughs are definitely forthcoming at points, but the issues it raises and dismisses in rapid succession are rarely accorded much time or thought. Perhaps this is in itself the point, but this seems rather an easy out.
Sluts is quite exhausting; a constant struggle to break through the lead character’s mixed motivations and the cocktail of the bizarre and the serious never quite achieving a balance. That being said, if you do brave it, this is a production that will stay with you for quite some time.
£10 - £14
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