Off West End Review

No Quarter – Network Theatre

no quarter

Duelling Productions present their latest creation, Polly Stenham’s biting drama No Quarter. It’s an intense 90 minutes portraying the life of wayward posh boy Robin (Ryan Whittle), who’s lived an isolated existence at his family’s country manor. He’s grown up with a home-schooled education, where real life is rooted in the pages of Enid Blyton, and playtime is shooing in the woods or building tree houses.

After dropping out of college, music becomes Robin’s escape along with a cocktail of alcohol and drugs as he struggles to find a place in the real world with a lack of social etiquette and mature responsibility.

Ryan Whittle gives a masterly performance as ‘Peter Pan on crack’ that’s unrelenting the whole 90 minutes. The play opens with a tender moment between Robin and his dementia suffering mother, as it slowly transpires he is assisting her suicide. It’s a heart-breaking scene as what appears to be routine medication shocks as something more. It sets the scene for Robin’s downward spiral into an all-consuming, melancholic state.

He is a deeply complex character and Whittle carries it off beautifully as he draws great sympathy despite his self-pitying and obnoxious manner. He’s a boy lost in need of care and nurturing after facing years of neglect, just like their dilapidated house that has disintegrated into a state of disrepair. The stage is an exposed dark space with a dozen buckets creatively suspended from the ceiling to collect rain water. It’s a visual spectacular enhanced by the tension building light-scape delivered by Jamie Manton.

no quarter
Stenham paints a picture of a dysfunctional family that calls into question the argument of nature vs nurture.  Robin’s brother Oliver (George Watkins), has a successful career as a member of Parliament and it’s clear from the opening fiery scene, there is history between the two brothers. Their upbringings have been very different and Oliver’s frustration becomes the wakeup call Robin needs to sort himself out.

In the final scenes it’s a hard watch, brutal and painful and both Whittle and Watkins give a powerful performance. There’s fine work too from Freddie Thorp and Evie Killip as toxic twins Arlo and Scout, who use Robin’s misfortune as a means to give value to their own lives. All in all, a strong ensemble cast.

Duelling have yet again, with direction from Jamie Manton, beautifully crafted an intense drama that delves deep into the heart of a dysfunctional family. It’s hard hitting and deeply moving that certainly grips and thrills.

No Quarter runs until 16th July at the Network Theatre.

(Photo courtesy of Jamie Scott-Smith)

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