Mercury Fur

LOUIS SHANKAR is captivated by this shocking tale

Cambridge Theatre Corpus Playrooms Dryden Society Justin Wells Mercury Fur Philip Ridley

Corpus Playrooms, 19.00, 18th February 2014, £6/£5

When Mercury Fur finished, I left Corpus Playrooms, headed back to my college’s bar, and had a drink.

That’s not because I’m an alcoholic. It’s just that Mercury Fur was the kind of play that made you need a drink (or three). It wasn’t to flush out the memories of the two-hour play, just to give the time and scope to consider its intensity and mull over its complex subject matter.

Mercury Fur is set in a strange, post-apocalyptic dystopia, where gangs seem to rule a world filled will hallucinogenic butterflies which are caught and traded on the streets. It tells the story of Darren and Elliot, siblings caught up in the middle of it all, who earn their living by hosting parties that allow guests to live out their most sick and twisted fantasies. Over the course of the play, the nature of their work is slowly uncovered, as is both their past and future.

Hallucinogenic butterflies out in full force (credit: Paper Butterfly Productions)

Hallucinogenic butterflies out in full force (credit: Paper Butterfly Productions)

The play is shocking, in-your-face, and brutal. Surreal humour and vivid metaphors are dispersed amongst the shouting and swearing that dominates. Violence is present but manages to never be gratuitous on stage, only in description. Well-choreographed fights occupy only the climax and, according to the program, required a special ‘Blood Designer’ as part of the crew.

Albeit a strange choice of play on the director’s part, the direction itself was well executed and engaging. At one point, an entirely empty stage still seemed as alive as when the same space was filled with bodies. A creative use of the entire space – including the entrances and exits to the theatre – brought the audience up close to the intense action, making their world seem shockingly real.

A simple, yet effective, set was made to shine thanks to the lighting design, which used a palette of orange and purple with amazing effect. On top of this, an incredibly affective use of sound generated tension and fear; I could feel my heart beating faster when thumping filled the theatre or eerie music came to a startling crescendo.

On top of this, though, the acting itself was, at the right times, loud and aggressive: the cast stormed around the trash that littered the stage, shouting and bellowing at each other. All of the actors were fantastic, bringing a distinction to each of the roles, from Ruby Zajac as the airy-fairy Duchess to Robbie Taylor Hunt’s calmly psychotic Party Guest. The siblings played by Freddie Sawyer and Julia Kass shone through, though, each being both flawed and sympathetic due to the intimate and often touching relationship they had with one another.

The first night was sold out – probably partly thanks to the controversial nature of the play – and the entire audience was visibly shocked at moments. However, we were captivated throughout, as if staring at one of their infamous drug-butterflies; we laughed, gazed aghast, and almost cried together.

Mercury Fur is astonishing, in so many ways. It is a intriguing piece of theatre and most definitely worth a look, although DEFINITELY NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED. You may need a drink afterward. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…