PHILIP Ridley’s dark, disturbing masterpiece came to life on Friday night at Salford University Adelphi theatre and made audiences squirm in discomfort. 

Touch Wood Theatre Company premiered an adaptation of Philip Ridley’s gothic, east end play ‘The Fastest Clock in the Universe’ and they certainly left their mark.

Leah Crepaz did a great job directing the performance and with themes of manipulation and cruelty, it was a birthday celebration audiences will never forget.

Much like the antihero Cougar Glass, the play (which was first produced in 1922) shows that age is just a number. The stage was filled with naturalistic set: a table and chairs; a vintage sofa; a birthday cake topped with candles; and a scarcely dressed Cougar in tight white boxers sat center stage bearing all for the audiences to see as they walked in.

Jordan Sim, the impressive actor playing Cougar, sat still, with sunglasses covering his eyes creating a distanced, non-humorous feel which made quiet giggles and awkward glances the standard reaction as the audience walked in to eventually fill up every seat in the room.

Jordan Sim (Cougar Glass) and James Blake (Captain Tock)

Sim stated in an interview: “We wanted audiences to feel disturbed, and disgusted by what they’re seeing.” This was certainly obvious as soon as the performance began, the audience was quick to coo and aw along with the hilarious actor James Blake playing the naive, down trodden character of Captain Tock.

Straight away the contrast between the characters of Cougar Glass and Captain Tock was spectacular and heightened the confusion of whether the audience should be laughing at Tock’s stupidity or frowning in disappointment at the obvious bullying and manipulation going on before their eyes.

Stood with his patchy, dyed black hair, in regular fashion, Cougar arranged his annual 19th birthday.

As the story unraveled the tale became even more disturbing- the depiction of lies and deception was clear when the audience sat in shock as Cougar, the deceitful middle aged man, had arranged his own present for himself, in the form of a 15-year-old teenage boy, Foxtrot.

Jack Fletcher (Foxtrot Darling) and Jordan Sim (Cougar Glass)

Jordan Sim added: “That’s the good thing about in your face theatre. It’s holding a mirror up to society and saying ‘These are all the bad things you’re doing, question yourself’.” The audience quickly saw this through the quivering character, Foxtrot Darling, who was next to enter the stage. Jack Fletcher played this fidgety, anxious character perfectly. To make things worse it became obvious another shock was to come, Foxtrot had a girlfriend… and she’s pregnant.

Director Leah Crepaz, was last to enter the stage humorously playing the young boy’s ‘babe’, Sherbet Gravel. The on-going joke of her love for traditional things was an intelligent portrayal of another form of manipulation on young Foxtrot. Both of the actor’s chemistry and outstanding acting made the characters much more exciting than the standard teenage boy and slightly rough woman stereotype audiences are used to seeing.

James Blake (Captain Tock), Leah Crepaz (Sherbet Gravel) and Jack Fletcher (Foxtrot Darling)

The black comedy was fascinating in both the themes and how the atmosphere in the room was manipulated- mirroring every character in the play. Leah Crepaz’s directing portrayed the right amount of discomfort and humor and left the audience confused but amused. A bittersweet hour.

LISTEN to Jordan Sim’s (Cougar Glass) full interview:


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