Mark ‘Sheffy’ Sheffield is kicking off. He's an unapologetic lad and “that's that”. But this sweaty pub philosopher is more than a mis-step from his creator, playwright Philip Stokes: he's a spilt pint's puddle of damp, sticky machismo.
Lee Bainbridge bellows Stokes's poetry in an endless rant of a performance, his microphone painfully unnecessary. He's Sheffy to the nines: a coke-sniffing lager lout who charges through his night on the town with all the finesse of a Pamplona bull. He gets skewered by a dealer on the way, but what really gets him is a girl called, with admirable subtlety, Angel.
Stokes's text could be a primer on Freud's Madonna-whore complex. Angel is perfect and untouchable, whereas the girl who actually wants to sleep with Sheffy is a “cheap Primark whore”. The two are played by crop-topped dancer Ella Daley, who fawns and throws herself over him in completely silent submission.
Things get still weirder when he uses her body as a handy prop to explain the far from complicated storyline. He demonstrates his dad's heart attack by pushing her breast in and out, or looks down the front of her leggings to show us exactly where his dealer keeps his stash. This isn't physical theatre, it's physical assault.
Stokes must be aware of the irony of Sheffy spouting Sartre while trampling on a century of feminist thought. But any satire is lost on a production that uncritically makes his fantasies flesh. When you're at the mercy of a lad this obnoxious, some apology is needed.