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  • Henry Longstaff

Ruckus - Southwark Playhouse

A ticking time bomb of degradation and control


This is not a new story. In fact, I’d argue most audience members know exactly how the play is going to end within its opening ten minutes. The horrific tales of domestic abuse and coercive control are known to us all, but do we recognise the telltale signs when they look us dead in the eye? Despite the looming expectations, Jenna Fincken’s Ruckus makes for a heartbreaking, chilling but equally animated and heartfelt evening of theatre.

Ryan says and does all the right things for 28 year old primary school teacher Lou, at the outset of their relationship. He is forgiving, kind and charming, taking her to fancy restaurants and supports her dream of moving to the seaside when her expected promotion doesn’t fall her way. Life is almost idyllic but almost inevitably fissures begin to form. What might be seen initially as insignificant changes to behaviour, steadily become manipulative and isolating. Lou, like so many victims, defends and excuses the actions to her friends but with the days counting down is will she able to step away and escape?

Fincken serves immaculately as both writer and performer in this one-woman show - Ryan being realised as a disconnected, bodiless voice. Fincken has done her research and boy does it show. The way in which she wields the subtleties of her language is outstanding. Throwaway, insignificant lines are packed with detail and meaning, which when put together paint the wider picture of dominance and power at play. Despite the stylised nature of much of the piece, the plot is grounded and visceral, drawing us closer to the highly relatable and aggressively likeable character of Lou.

The technical elements of Ruckus add to the heightened tone of the production. Lighting and projection design from Simeon Miller and sound design from Tingying Dong collaborate seamlessly as we lurch through Lou and Ryan’s relationship. They are effectively jarring and uncomfortable complete with subtle nods to the text such as the fire-crackling sound design. Ruckus is a prime example of creatives cooperating in coordinated harmony - the lighting aligning with the movement, the sound in sync with the performance and all of the impressive work underpinned by stellar direction from Georgia Green and of course Fincken’s outstanding script.

It is no wonder that this play was a hit at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe and it deserves to be a hit in London too (and wherever it hopefully goes next). This production asks you to check on your friends. Scratch that, it demands you make your support for them known, repeatedly and loudly - even when it is not being asked for. Keep an eye out not for the obnoxiously large red flags but the subtler ones too. It might make all the difference.

Running till 29 October - Tickets

Photography - Mihaela Bodlovic

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