The Sunset Limited Is A Compelling 90 Minute-er

The Sunset Limited at Boulevard Theatre ★★★★☆

The Sunset Limited Is A Compelling 90 Minute-er The Sunset Limited at Boulevard Theatre 4
Photo: Marc Brenner

What's your black and white, the unwritten rule book you live life by? What if you had to win someone over to your side, who had the opposite view — if their life depended on it?

Cormac McCarthy's gripping two-hander follows the moments after a depressed professor has tried to fling himself under the wheels of a train. The man who saved him, named Black (Gary Beadle) is an ex-murderer who found God in jail. His challenge is to save White (Jasper Britton), the second time.

McCarthy, author of The Road, is a master of spare prose. There's nothing baggy or extraneous here, no scene changes or multiple characters, just Black's decrepit tower block flat and the muffled sound effects of neighbours living too close for comfort.

In this stuffy space neither can escape from their conversation which meanders — amusingly, philosophically, but always with the threat of White's exit and his second suicide attempt. This lends an edge to things, which is carried along by Beadle's compelling Black. He sets out to prove life has a value, something he can 'hold and feel the weight of' in his hands. But White goes for the rational argument, and his belief that the 'darker illustration is always the correct one' is hard to shake. Dishevelled in his tracksuit, White's shoulders straighten and we see glimpses of his academic prowess. We wonder if his isn't the 'cleverer' argument over Black's more simple and optimistic one.

The end left us wanting more perhaps than a battle of philosophies. The dramatic gear change mid-way of a gauntlet thrown down, didn't really lead to the dramatic ending we were unknowingly craving. But there's not one dull minute here — bleak and intense, pure Cormac McCarthy.

The Sunset Limited is at the Boulevard Theatre, 6 Walker's Court, Soho, W1F 0BT, £12. Until 29 February.

Last Updated 23 January 2020