October 29, 2013 by hattersleysmith
Muffled nightclub beats creep up legs as curtains rise on Jez Butterworth’s ‘Mojo‘ at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Silver Johnny is about to let rock’n’roll loose to the sweating bodies in the subterranean club below, steam rises from the stairs as he gyrates and swings and shakes to mounting melody. He’s announced, he descends and the audience is lost to the darkness and drums.
It’s a shame music doesn’t play a bigger part of director Ian Rickson’s production, though his stellar cast, fronted by a mesmerizing Ben Whishaw, more than holds its own. The duo Rupert Grint and Daniel Mayes grip the audience in a play almost solely comprised of their intersecting gabbling dialogue, their nagging voices relentlessly cutting down the tragic tension; Colin Morgan shines as angry boy Skinny; Downton’s Brendan Coyle commands more stage when silent. But it is Whishaw’s performance which stays with the audience long after the final bow. His unsettling shifting and bordering-childish outbursts ground his sinister transformation into boss, detective and, ultimately, murderer.
Rickson’s production pays close attention to the brutal details of Butterworth’s script, laying huge numbing insignificance with toffee apples, birthday cake and six pleated trousers. Such ludicrous props seem expanded by the sparse nightclub set which forms the perfect backdrop for such a capable group of actors. The first half takes place in the office upstairs, whilst the second half takes the audience down onto the dance floor itself. Sans clamour of moving kids and frenzied music the grimy set is conspicuously empty, occupied by the awkwardly tragic ‘dance’ of those who remain to deal with the fatal mess of the night before.
‘Mojo’ is a play about the absurdity of youth in an age which demands excess and rhythm, an age which never slows, nor pauses to consider consequence or cause, a relentless age which threatens to burn out in its own consuming energy, leaving only a gaping taste of anticlimax.
‘Mojo’ is playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 25th January 2014