The Cut

LAURA PATERSON is still recovering from this hard-hitting but well-executed performance.

corpus lateshow Dystopia Laura Paterson the cut

Corpus Playroom, 9.30 PM, March 4th-8th, £6/5.

A profound meditation on society and government, The Cut is fairly heavy stuff. The play follows the life of a civil servant, Paul, as he struggles in a dystopian future. We see his life transformed by changing attitudes towards the mysterious, controversial and painful process that gives the play its title and aims to “cut away this history and this wanting”.


Mark Ravenhill’s play was a brave choice since it consists almost exclusively of stilted dialogues. His work is more of the bone structure of a drama, with little plotline and ambiguity obscuring the few events that do happen. Unanchored by clear dates or place names, we’re given little information on this dystopian society and we’re never quite sure how similar or different it is from our own. However this lack of clarity actually proves quite liberating, since it allows free interpretation of the events and speech. Whether you read it as an allegory of capital punishment, social hierarchy or just the brainchild of a manic-depressive, The Cut will make you think.

In this production the minimal use of props and clinical lighting makes the stage feel as bare as the script, so the sole focus is the dialogue. Such a skeletal play demands some top-class acting to flesh it out. Ravenhill had the advantage of Ian Mckellen in his production. Nevertheless Henry St Leger-Davey’s cast all deliver affecting and believable performances in the Corpus Playroom and keep the audience riveted until the end. Alaisdar Mcnab and Aoife Kennan paint an especially unnerving picture of a clinical marriage fostered by the dystopian society. There are elements of the plot that are alien to our everyday lives, but the vivid depictions of loneliness and suffering on-stage are something we can easily recognise.

At times The Cut made for uncomfortable viewing, with frequent swearing, shouting and the perpetual suffering of the characters on-stage. In such an intimate venue it verged on being threating. But realistically, a dystopian play about chopping up people was never going to be in the same ballpark as the Lola Lo Down. Still, the audience gave me a bit of light relief when a nearby gentleman began enthusiastically masticating his dentures during one particularly poignant silence.

On paper The Cut should be an hour and a half of depressing meditations on how rubbish life is, triggering traumatic flashbacks to the despondency of week five. Yet somehow the cast pull it off. The play doesn’t necessarily provide entertainment, but rather food for thought, allowing you to make what you will of the production. If a little gloomy, The Cut provides the chance to think for the pleasure of thinking. I’d forgotten how nice it was to use formulate thoughts that don’t have to be exactly 2000 word in length and come without the pressure of looming essay deadlines.

The Cut is a challenging play for both cast and audience, but it hits hard and is well worth a visit.