Theatre Review: The Fastest Clock In The Universe

Posted on: 05 October 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

If you can imagine a cross between Dorian Gray and The Birthday Party with a touch of Andy Warhol thrown in for good measure and you will have some idea of the flavour of Philip Ridley’s black comedy The Fastest Clock In The Universe which is revived in a new production at the Hampstead Theatre.

In a strange room above a long-abandoned factory in London’s East End, a 30-year-old Cougar is preparing for his “nineteenth” birthday party again. Everything has been planned to the last detail. Surely nothing can go wrong? After all, there’s an especially made birthday cake, the specially written cards, the specially chosen guest of honour… and a very sharp knife. However, the arrival of the young and sexy female Foxtrot ignites a chain reaction in which narcissism, desire and an obsessive fear of ageing are played out to their extremes.

This edgy and provocative drama caused a sensation when it premiered at the Hampstead Theatre in 1992 but is unlikely to shock most theatregoers in the more liberal 21st century. However, the first half seems very sub Joe Orton/ Harold Pinter with an awkward mix of humour and drama. But this dark comedy of desire takes off in the second half when things come together more satisfactorily and the play achieves a certain insight and depth.

Director Edward Dick extracts creditable performances from his well-chosen cast, in particular Alec Newman, Finbow Lynch and Jamie Winstone in her stage debut. Furthermore Mark Thompson’s evocative and timeless set creates the right rather sinister atmosphere that is played out within its walls.

By Laurence Green

Where & When: Plays until 17 October at the Hampstead Theatre and then at the Curve Leicester from 21 October – 14 November.

Box Office: Call 020 7722 9301.

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