This Will End Badly

★★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 08 Aug 2015

This blistering new play from Rob Hayes, whose Awkward Conversations with Animals I've F*cked caused a stir last Edinburgh, is a howl of horror and pain tearing ferociously into modern life.

It's anchored by a nerve-taut Ben Whybrow, who switches seamlessly between accents as This Pain, Misery Guts and Meat Cute: three men whose collective picture of modern masculinity is like Edvard Munch's 'The Scream'. One is quite literally constipated by heartbreak, one housebound with ever-worsening OCD, and the last a bar-stool predator, snarling the rules of the seduction game at the audience as he stalks his prey.

Hayes's writing escalates in brutal detail, the changes between characters feeling ever more like whiplash as he flings uncomfortably familiar things at us. From the degradation of pornography to the anguish of endlessly, compulsively flipping a light switch, this believable world is almost too cruel and too cold to bear. 

Like the blockage of shit afflicting This Pain, festering inside today's sculpted, immaculately dressed man is a ball of pain and anger, backed here by Duran Duran's 'Girls on Film'. Meat Cute, with his fetishising of women's calves, is like a character from a Bret Easton Ellis novel, hunting with a 21st-century face on.

Clive Judd's stark production, with its popping lightbulb, checkered floor and ceramic toilet, rightly strips things back to Whybrow, who eyeballs us in turn. He's heartrending, callous and funny by turns. It's as unsettling and brilliant a performance as you're likely to see this year.