Image courtesy of Bush Theatre
Labute's plays often deal with instances of masculine excess. From the cruel double-date and dump her philosophy / therapy of his leads in In the Company of Men, and the 'solution' of infanticide as a means of dealing with stifling pressure at work in Bash to Ben Chaplin's scintillating, excruciating performance as the 'unreliable narrator' in This Is How it Goes at the Donmar back in 2005 - Labute exposes a base need to possess and an ability to discard at will. This is not always in the name of achieving urbane ideals - no, according to the playwright, it goes to the very core of men's souls.
Wrecks is a monologue, delivered by Robert Glenister in a broad Midwestern accent that hides well a TV persona of playing cockneys and cops in high profile drama such as Prime Suspect, Ruby in the Smoke, and Hustle. As Edward Carr, he idealises his life partner Mary Jo - 'a pearl [fallen] to the planet' - at who's wake the audience is currently trapped with Carr as he takes a breather from the proceedings, to assess his performance (which appears to be happening concurrently in another room). He tells us about his deceased wife, trimming her life story with the briefest of details from his own background, though there's always an underlying sense of something else coming, a confession on its way.
Such a process is aided no end by the womb-like enclosure of the set, a beiged, fuchsia coloured carpet lines the floors and walls of the seating area, with the large dark wooden coffin upfront and soft focus picture of the dearly departed adjacent; we are trapped within Carr's emotional landscape as he recoils stories within stories in Labute's famously astute language.
But what is it all about? There's no nasty pay-off, a distinct lack of venom and resentment, just why is he telling us about their exceptionally deep mutual attraction, how he fought off her former husband and how fruitfully intense their sex life was.... for us the production took a bit too long for the bullet to get bitten but that's probably because we didn't see what should have been obvious til it was too late.
By Claire Cooke
Wrecks at The Bush Theatre, until 28 March.