facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11
# I MISS THEATRE
Are you missing theatre as much as we are? Support us now with Theatre Tokens and see your favourite shows when they reopen.

The Pain And The Itch

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 29 September 2010

The scene is a slick modern apartment in urban America. The sofas are cream, spotlights smatter the ceiling, a widescreen telly and an Ipod docked in its speaker system provide the accoutrements to a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. Its occupants are married couple Clay and Kelly, young daughter Kayla and a baby, joined for dinner by Clay’s brother Cash, their mother Carol and Cash’s girlfriend Kalina. Caroline Bishop went to the first night of The Pain And The Itch…

Playwright Bruce Norris introduces us to Clay and Kelly, perched on the sofa clutching the baby, casting their ever-so-concerned gazes on a man – later disclosed as cab driver Mr Hadid. He has suffered a bereavement, we find out, but who, how and why is saved for later. Throughout the play Mr Hadid – invited guest in the household – observes the goings-on, the relationships, the squabbles and the attitudes of this particular social group from the position of an outsider, a fly on the wall, as is the audience.

What he observes is a couple obsessed with minor preoccupations – who, or what, is biting chunks out of un-peeled avocados? – and believing they are constructing the ideal life while being dishonest about it in the process. Their upbringing of Kayla bends to all the usual politically-correct, fun-less rules: no smoking in front of her, no playing games relating to firearms, no makeup (“masculine objectification”, says Kelly). They like to think they are liberal, understanding, cultured, worldly-wise, born out of a background of ‘crazy’ frivolity into responsible, socially aware adults. But underneath is social guilt and indignation over their relative wealth, an undercurrent of snobbery (in Kelly, less undercurrent, more overlay) and hypocrisy.

While Mr Hadid makes a searing point with innocent questions – how much are Clay’s shoes?; why don’t they get their ‘distressed’ table fixed? – Cash is a more obvious critical voice to his brother’s lifestyle, as the cynical plastic surgeon, who, at least, is honest about his own less-than-peachy values.

Cleverly constructed by Norris and with dialogue which makes its point with every line, The Pain And The Itch is a hilariously cynical satire with some disturbingly recognisable, and unsympathetic, characters. Matthew Macfadyen acts Clay as a man always attempting to do the right thing but getting confused in the process, trying to disguise the marital problems with his sharp, uptight wife (Sara Stewart) while dealing with his own long-held familial insecurities. Andrea Riseborough grabs much of the laughter as the no-nonsense, fun-loving Kalina, who puts a spanner in Kelly’s politically-correct works at every turn and undermines Kelly’s precious claims of ‘abuse’. Peter Sullivan is an unpleasantly cynical Cash while Amanda Boxer is spot-on as the innocently racist mother Carol. Shannon Kelly as Kayla, meanwhile, is an expert screamer.

In the bitter denouement Norris shows this middle-class construct for what it is: a blanket of Ipod and anti-smoking policy which covers up the ugly elements of human nature that they pretend they don’t succumb to, or if they do, of course they are not to blame…

The Pain And The Itch plays at the Royal Court

CB

Share

Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.