Nowadays, the Menier Chocolate Factory seems to have found a profitable niche reviving old musicals on a small scale and then transferring them to the West End.
But five years ago it played host to Philip Ridley’s taut, controversial and extremely violent drama which begins in the dark and ends with blood and bodies all over the place.
I missed it first time round, so (from that point of view at least) Theatredelicatessen’s new production (directed with a sure hand by Frances Loy) provided a welcome chance to find out what the fuss was about.
This enterprising company has taken up residence in a disused office block (just behind Selfridges) where, once inside, the stripped bare offices provide the perfect environment for a play set in a deserted East London housing estate.
Here, clever, tense Elliot and his slower-witted younger brother Darren have a party to arrange and they’re racing against time.
There are gangs in the streets, the British Museum has been looted, and memories have been eaten away by hallucinogenic butterflies. This is no conventional celebration, though.
Staging it is a means of survival – the “party piece” is a young boy and it’s soon clear that things are going to turn very, very nasty indeed as they prepare to enable a rich city guy to fulfil his warped Vietnam fantasies and capture them on video.
There are strong performances – particularly from Matt Granados and Chris Urch as the brothers, Isaac Jones as Lola (Elliot’s squeamish transvestite lover) and Ben Wigzell as tough guy “Papa” Spinx whose solicitous care of the blind, spaced-out Duchess reveals that he, like the others, is capable of caring.
Ridley (who also writes books for children) has argued that what he shows in his vision of a post apocalyptic world is no more shocking than a Greek tragedy.
That may be true, but, worryingly, this isn’t the first time he’s tackled the subject of a child victim at a party. An uneasy mixture of extreme brutality, devotion and neediness, it makes for 2 hours of uncomfortable viewing, but with a diminishing power to shock as the violence spirals.
3-4 Picton Place W1U 1BJ 07708 740913 theatredelicatessen.co.uk Until 13th March £12 (£10 concessions)