The answer is possibly, but probably not, in writer/director Jack Shepherd’s moribund and faltering play. The catalyst he uses to attempt to breathe life into the turgid premise is a faded and forgotten artist named Elvira. Played by Maggie Steed, the larger-than-life reminiscing alcoholic arrives as a pillion passenger on a motorbike and momentarily energises the stage. But unfortunately, the characterisation bears too close a resemblance to Margaret Rutherford’s turn as Madame Arcarti (in Coward’s movie of Blithe Spirit) to offer anything but a momentary fillip. Apparently not long for this world, she is determined to take a last look at the house which served as backdrop to many an escapade in the 1930s with her youthful arty set.
The smell of a stew bubbling on the kitchen stove, gradually permeates the auditorium during the first half, which adds to the rustic feel of Louie Whitemore’s tranquil, country setting.
Also simmering, are a thinly explored plot thread about mental states in the business world, an argument between ageing biker Zak (Michael Feast) and Chris about the monetary vs aesthetic value of art, and a lonely secondary character’s romantic delusions about stoic and dependable wife Anna (James Clyde making little impression as Peter).
Ironically, for a piece titled The Cutting Edge, this feels terribly dated and is a rare flop for the Arcola which has recently been riding the crest of a wave with new and edgy theatre. The programme blurb alludes to an exploration of the tensions between creativity and capitalism, sustainability and progress - but as is so often with blurb, this merely sounds like the creator’s attempt to justify a not especially good piece of work, but hats-off to the actors for trying to find ways around the worst excesses of Shepherd’s often cumbersome phrasing when they are meant to be at their most reflective and wistful.