The work of American playwright Neil LaBute seems to have been ever present on the London stage over the past couple of years. Fat Pig turned heads last year, landing a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for Best New Comedy, while the Almeida theatre has staged In A Dark Dark House, the Trafalgar Studio 2 hosted Bash and Some Girl(s) playing at the Gielgud theatre.
The ever-transforming Bush space is given a make-over of peace and tranquillity as it is reconfigured as a chapel of rest, in which the audience sits around three sides of Mary Jo’s coffin while Robert Glenister as Carr leads us back through his life both with and without his late wife.
This is achieved in a kind of out of body experience, Carr referring sporadically to his movements in the adjoining room; how he is coping with the guests, keeping hold of his emotions under such circumstances.
His story reveals a character longing for a bygone age. He is a man who doesn’t talk about his feelings – except to the audience who, he admits, are the exception – who rebuilds and rents old cars rather than new. He shares his tragic childhood and how his life, and that of Mary Jo, who he saved from a failing marriage, changed for the good when they met.
Glenister, prowling around the room, cigarette in hand, is the devoted husband, torn apart by the death of his wife, in somewhat morbidly ironic fashion, and faced with life without the woman he considered marginally less perfect than an angel.
This being LaBute, there is a sting hiding among the love which, at the end of this 70-minute show, could have audiences questioning quite whether the peace and purity of the funeral parlour are as appropriate as they seem.