I left Mercury Fur feeling I had travelled somewhere beyond my seat. I have rarely experienced a play so far ahead of its time.
This isn’t to say I wasn’t as shaken as everyone else who saw it. I was confronted by several people crying in the toilets, and in the corridor. I don’t want to focus too much on the last ten minutes of the play; suffice to say, they were horrific and have been discussed at length by everyone there. I had to cover my face, which I don’t think I’ve done whilst watching something since I was a child. There definitely needed to be a trigger warning for rape alongside the gunshot warning, and thankfully the Festival team moved swiftly to do so for the second performance.
Nottingham New Theatre do a good job, despite a slow, hiccupy start (there’s a lot of tripping over cans of lager). The set works; and thank God director Nadia Amico doesn’t feel the need to put her actors on stage whilst the audience comes in so we have time to experience it. The rubbish, stained carpets and overturned furniture already set us on the downward spiral. Destination: having your beating heart ripped out of your chest. Stand out performances come from Laura Gallop as Naz, who brings a vulnerable confidence to an incredibly difficult part. She shines, but Andy Routledge as Elliot, Matthew Miller as Darren and Aaron Tej as Lola are also commendable. The relationships between the two brothers, Elliot and Darren, as well as Elliot and Lola’s relationship are the heart of the piece. All the actors are incredibly brave to go to the very dark place they have to go to; but then, so are the audience. I felt like applauding everyone in the auditorium afterwards.
After a bit of reflection, I knew why I was upset. I was not repulsed, I was scared. Very, very scared. We live in a world in which the stakes between what we can win and what we can lose are getting higher every day. The more we are desensitised, the more we desire something to overcome the numbness that modern society has inflicted on us.
“I’m going to hurt you”, says the party guest. Her glee is disgusting, heightened slightly more by the fact she is played in this production by a woman. I understood how the possibility for that desire had come about and how it was being facilitated by characters we sympathised with. I think that’s why the play was so nearly censored. Well, it was to an extent. Faber and Faber refused to publish it. We feel sick, because we recognise what this play is on some level, and we don’t want to admit it.
The word ‘dystopian’ is being thrown about. Look at this scary future, people say, calmly reasserting it won’t happen in their lifetime. I don’t think Mercury Fur is so far away. The world of the Party Guest is coming. We are increasingly disconnected from our natural feelings. An attention span in 140 characters, eroticism dwindled to a number of certain conventions, experiences for the sake of pictorial evidence. Bigger thrills, bigger highs to overcome the desensitisation to everything we can no longer feel entirely; hunger, arousal, hate. I think it’s a lot closer than we’d like to think.
This piece was originally published at http://noff.nsdf.org.uk as part of the National Student Drama Festival