I’ve always been a sucker for speculative fiction; it’s one of the best ways to reflect on the world around you, while also engaging with an interesting narrative. It creates pathways for us to consider our own anxieties. With this in mind, It’s clear that newcomers Clay Party, share my belief in the power of speculative fiction, and their debut production Outside stands tall as an impressive poster child for it . The premise ofOutside is as follows; Charlie, Rosie, and Ed (played by Charlie Suff, Rosie Gray, and writer/actor Edward Stone) are three twenty-somethings living in a UK where a nationwide curfew has been enforced. Outside’s plot takes place on the night this year-long curfew is finally set to be lifted, and our characters are gearing up for the festivities. The piece is set in motion as we learn that the fall of the curfew also marks the night that concierge, Charlie, is planning on proposing to long-time girlfriend, Rosie, catalyzed by his discovery of a discarded positive pregnancy test.
Too often I find that a piece relies on an interesting premise, but does little to develop it narratively. However, I am delighted to find that this is not the case with Outside. The narrow focus on the characters’ personal lives makes the larger reality they live in feel detailed, rich, and overwhelmingly naturalistic; I have to keep reminding myself that I am not, in fact, the fourth member of this flat party. When Outside does need to deliver exposition/backstory on its incel infested world, it’s done in subtle and varied ways (namely, Alexa and radio broadcasts) that don’t feel at all forced. Most of this uncanny naturalism can be credited to the acting talents of the cast, who all stand out as masters of realistic delivery and timing. Though praise must also be afforded to writer Edward Stone’s incredible knack for dialogue, and clear understanding of how to pen authentic personalities. If I haven’t sold you yet, you’re lying. But, if you insist on being stubborn, then rest assured that the real, thematic meat of this piece is just as up to snuff as the rest of its successes.
Each character interacts with masculine violence in different ways, from the mundane (such as being forced to sleep in your office if you work late) to the tragic (one of the characters is sibling to a crippled bombing victim). This makes the danger of unchecked male anger feel omnipresent and looming. Thus, the end of the curfew ushers in a sense of hope; the possibility that things have finally calmed down makes going outside seem more a relief than a threat. To this end, the curfew itself functions as a clever analogy for the stifling (and crumbling) relationship we see play out between Rosie and Charlie, which begins to feel less and less like a partnership and more like a game of capture-the-flag (or in this case fianceé). This is what makes Outside such a complex, satisfying production. Outside made me more afraid of the men inside Rosie’s life than the ones beyond the walls of Charlie’s flat, and the significance of that is extraordinarily telling as to the play’s power.
Outside is performed in the Pleasance Courtyard Cellar venue everyday at 3:30 (except the 13th) until the 27th .