Camden Fringe 2011
A pair of toddlers are bestowed with the articulation and education of adults as they lament a sudden world of responsibility. Pinch, the eldest child, contemplates cannibalism and criminality in order to win back the sole affection of his mother from the newest addition to the family. An allegorical concept and perceptive staging lead to a worthy and thought-provoking play.
Pinch In Love is a surreal black comedy charting a morning in the lives of a young family. Playwright Caroline Mitchell conceives a production that skews perception from the offset. Adults don babygrows and a dangerous concoction of childlike sensibilities with adult rationale and prejudice, producing uncomfortably startling results. Leads Kiel O’Shea and Steve Donnelly are dignified as they debate a myriad of ethical dilemmas and metaphysical crises in a children’s play area, at one point stripping down to nappies. The absurdity of the toddler’s maturity drolly emphasises the characteristics of irrational hate. Gurgling new born Kat Redstone lies helpless as a symbolic target of loathing from her on-stage brothers. Pinch In Love is a pithy and welcomingly unpretentious implication that prejudice is assimilated through the natural and ultimately detrimental fear of difference.
Donnelly accomplishes a feat playing the homicidal, cannibalistic Pinch. The sadistic toddler is wrought in a cohesive struggle to understand why his beloved mother, Lucy Hoult, is diverting full time doting duties to ‘baby’. The manifestation of this struggle is a horrifying Oedipus complex and contemplations of nefarious methods of disposal for the sibling he refers to as ‘it. O’Shea shares the same desires yet is plagued by his advanced understanding of morality and law. O’Shea demonstrates a candid ability to imitate the infant apprehension concerning wrong-doing. As brothers locked in a part-philosophical debate and innate sense of sibling accountancy, O’Shea and Donnelly are uncanny, comical and enjoyable.
The mute cast members, ‘baby’ Resdstone and fatigued, perturbed mother Hoult manage to retain impact despite having restricted roles. Redstone admirably remains a helpless sputtering new-born, whilst Hoult manages to keep her cycle of child-rearing, distraction and despair sympathetic. Voicing the mother with an unsynchronised, distorted recording consolidated the element of possession of articulation crucial to Pinch. The infants were coherently conversing and the mother, the audience sharing a child’s stance, was perplexing and incomprehensible. Technical adages such as this supported the ongoing contemplations of the lead roles: there is disparity between what is an instinctive response compared to what one can rationally argue with cultural and academic influence.
Discussing widely similar precepts for an hour did begin to feel repetitive in spite of strong and incisive scriptwriting. The rapport between Donnelly and O’Shea, however seemingly natural, did not carry enough gumption to distract from the somewhat limited terrain of the production’s arrangement. Due to the real-time narrative and anchoring in the nursery-style setting Pinch In Love suffered from lapses of momentum. Regrettably, the play drew to a close with a sudden resolution that felt damp and contrived considering the events witnessed throughout.
Overall enjoyment and appreciation of Pinch In Love was not hampered by the limp ending. Pinch was a play of duality; voices were administered to infants to embolden the concept of learned rationality and senseless irrationality; responsibility is at odds with instincts. Substituting the detestability of humans to each other in the microcosm of a sinister family provided a stark realisation of the production’s allegorically-driven themes and social comment. The ensemble acted naturally and emphatically aided by a sterling script from Caroline Mitchell and contributing sound, setting and staging. Pinch In Love is highly recommended as piece of political theatre on the ‘surreal satire’ part of the genre’s spectrum of possibilities.