The Royal Court Theatre presents
Flesh Wound ( Archived )
By Che Walker
15 May - 7 June 2003
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
There is no further information for this production. For archival material contact the V&A Museum
(L to R) Tamzin Outhwaite, Andrew Tiernan; Tamzin Outhwaite
Photography by Stephen Vaughan
Directed by Wilson Milam
Design: Dick Bird, Lighting: Neil Austin, Sound: Ian Dickinson.
Cast includes: Michael Attwell, Tamzin Outhwaite, Andrew Tiernan
In a rundown flat with peeling wallpaper, on the 20th floor of a tower block in a part of London that sees “everybody streaming through to get up West”, Deirdra is dealing with an unwelcome visitor. Joseph claims to be Deirdras mothers first husband, and thus father to Deirdras older brother Vincent. All he wants, he says, is to assist his son, who is in trouble with the estates large, notorious and extremely violent Calderazzo family.
Deirdra isnt at all sure. She wont put that carving knife down until she seen some proof. Thus does Ch Walkers second play for the Royal Court, after Been So Long, crackle into compelling life. With an admirable paucity of words Walker paints a scene of high-rise low lives, overshadowed by even lower expectations. The dialogue is first rate-
“Where you been, then?” “Ive been scared, thats where Ive been” and better by some way than the overall tonal cohesion. For the shifts in mood and, indeed, allegiance, which start off as uneasy in Wilson Milams production, become increasingly implausible, even comical, as the action progresses.
Tamzin Outhwaite, formerly of the parish of Albert Square, gives an impressively aggressive, edgy performance as the sister whose love for her sibling knows the bounds but cant quite stick to them. Andrew Tiernan, who will surely be black and blue by the end of his stint as Vincent, is battered all over the stage, and yet retains an indomitable hyperactivity. His flesh may well be wounded, but his spirits remains ever willing.
EVENING STANDARD 21 May 2003
This is also a world where its taken for granted that the talk will veer from bullets to launderettes, from prison brutality to whether or not passive smoking harms babies.
I dont know whether Walker has seen it from the inside, but, thanks to Tamzin Outhwaites tough, feisty Deirdra, Tiernans querulous Vincent and (especially) Atwells big, beaming Joseph, he convinces you he has. And the result is a dark, disconcerting play.
THE TIMES 22 May 2003
You could easily take Ch Walkers second Royal Court play as a standard piece of in yer face theatre. But, although its undeniably visceral, in the end its a sharp-witted study of sentimentalised violence and the use of language as a form of moral camouflage.
Tamzin Outhwaite invests Deirdra with a wondrous mix of abrasive toughness and residual decency as if a sacred heart still beats under her shiny tracksuit.
GUARDIAN 22 May 2003
It sounds like a plot line from EastEnders: an old cockney lay turns up out of the blue at the scummy 20th floor council flat of his exwifes daughter, demanding to know the whereabouts of his son, whom he hasnt seen since the lad was a nipper. Hes heard his kids in trouble and he wants to help. He done wrong in the past, but hes turned over a new leaf.
Throw in the fact that the actress playing the tower-block tenant is Tamzin Outhwaite, formerly tough-but-sexy barmaid Mel from EastEnders, and youd think that in Ch Walkters Flesh Wound you had the kind of play that aspires to be formulaic prime-time television. Not a bleeding bit of it though; while Walkers exceptionally classy act could be appreciated by millions, it manages to carve to pieces the cliches that make soaps so wearisomely predictable in tone.
This is a play that never quite lest you know what to think, or how to react. When we first see Michael Attwells magnificently louche, out-of-condition Jospeh, with his slicked-back hair, immaculate suit and heavy overcoat, he seems a man more sinned against than sinning. Nothing he can say can overcome the mistrust of Outhwaites aggressive, foul-mouthed Deirdra, or the threatened violence of the demented Vincent, who assumes the stranger is a member of a clan of local Camden crooks burning to exact revenge for the rape of one of their own.
Searing domestic tragedy mingles with dark, squalid comedy as the father, apparently in the grip of remorseful nostalgia, attempts to reawaken filial affection by recalling moments of bedtime bonding from years ago. In the vicious hatred of Andrew Tiernans wild-eyed Vincent, absurd paranoia meshes inextricable with layers of pen-up pain, the produce of criminal neglect. Then, just when reconciliation seems at hand, Walker engineers a plot-twist that rips even deeper into this familys diseased heart.
You could say that there are one too many of these sudden revearsals, that things swing form being too good to be true, to being too bad to be plausible. But the dialogue is flawlessly sharp, stylishly hovering above the level of street-talk the better to peer with an unsentimental but compassionate eye on the self-perpetuating patterns of misery these sorry members of the urban underclass are trapped in, their humanity withered by the need to survive. Wilson Milams gripping production serves this slice of high-rise low-life with surgical precision; a considerable cut above the rest.
THE TELEGRAPH 23 May 2003
JERWOOD THEATRE UPSTAIRS