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Phil Willmott

Review: WHEN WE HAVE SUFFICIENTLY TORTURED EACH OTHER at the National Theatre

Tickets for the entire run of this sold out even before rehearsals finished so keen were we all to see movie star Cate Blanchett performing in the intimate Dorfman Theatre (at the National Theatre)

When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other - Cate Blanchett - photo by Stephen Cummiskey Cate Blanchett in When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other - photo by Stephen Cummiskey

Even without the cache of her name the sexual content we were warned about/promised would probably have been enough to keep the box office busy. It’s little wonder that the production was on so many unwary people’s radar.

Lights come up on a domestic garage - exposed concrete and a car. Cate is there in a scruffy dressing gown. Stephen Dillane and 4 young actors burst in and put on sex role play costumes.

Our stars then play a privileged couple voicing playwright Martin Crimp’s “12 Variations on Samuel Richardson’s Pamela”. A novel so famously long and boring that even Fielding never read it.

As they clamber in and out of lingerie (well Cate does, Richard is never required to objectify his body) their contradictory character revelations and gender swapping remind us that couples can be brutal and er... contradictory. Sometimes they drag the other actors into it and humiliate them.

Knowing there’s to be 12 variations it’s tempting to wonder how many there is to go before we can leave but the dialogue is so tediously repetitive and the performances so one note that it’s impossible to differentiate when one starts and the other begins.

Presumably you already know that couples play power games, thus rendering the play utterly futile as it offers no further insight. So what can you take from this boring, interval-less, two hours?

After a while I became fascinated by the narcissism of it all. A playwright excited that world was waiting for his insight on sex games. A star who can only have been drawn to play the lead role because she’d get to spout long monologues and feel edgy and relevant by strapping on a dildo and simulating anal sex.

“My fans will adore seeing me like this” she must have reasoned. And she’s not wrong, her fans have snapped up the tickets. Whether they’ll still be fans when they’ve sat through this pretentious, self congratulatory drivel is another matter.