Review: Tracy Letts’s Bug Will Get Under Your Skin

Bug, Found 111 ★★★☆☆

By Stuart Black Last edited 29 months ago
Review: Tracy Letts’s Bug Will Get Under Your Skin Bug, Found 111 3
James Norton and Kate Fleetwood. Photo by Simon Annand.

Paranoia can be infectious as proven by this itchy, twitchy new version of the 1996 play Bug by American shlockmeister Tracy Letts.

The story takes place entirely in a cheap motel room in Oklahoma, seedily recreated in the rough interior of Found 111, an ad hoc space on the Charing Cross Road (next to the old Foyles building). And it’s a seriously claustrophobic crucible for the drug-induced madness that soon engulfs the troubled couple holed up there.

We start with Agnes (Kate Fleetwood, Tony-nominated for her Lady Macbeth), biting her nails as she answers a phone call that may or may not be from her violent ex-husband who may also be lurking somewhere nearby. The solution to her constant state of anxiety seems to lie, firstly, in her crystal meth pipe and bottomless tumbler of vodka and coke, and then in a slightly desperate relationship with damaged Gulf war veteran Peter (James Norton, from the BBC’s recent War and Peace).

It’s an intense and uncomfortable play that indulges Letts’s taste for the rough stuff; so expect violence, drugs, murder, stripping and a general air of extreme American Gothic.

The two young stars get to indulge in hot histrionics as various fears and memories take hold of them — all coming together in their feverish joint obsession with an insect infestation. But the story can feel a bit thin at times amid all the thrashing and gnashing. We have to wince at the scene where Peter pulls out his own back tooth with a pair of pliers, but do we particularly care about him and his rambling conspiracy theories?

As a study of troubled people at the bottom of the food chain Bug lacks insight and subtlety, but as a creepy exploitation chiller it just about does the job: you will need a thorough delousing after watching.

Bug runs at Found 111 until 7 May. Tickets £45. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 30 March 2016