Crush (3 stars)

This article is from 2009.


From hormonal teenagers to marriage: Paul Charlton returns

Paul Charlton’s Fringe debut – 2003’s Love, Sex and Cider – won a major award for its portrayal of the lives of four angst-ridden teenagers in North East England. His comeback piece six years later, however, is a predictably more mature affair. A dark look at the breakdown of a young couple’s marriage, it forces us to consider the way in which the internet not only simplifies our lives, but how much easier it makes it to do things we know to be wrong or misguided.

Crush is a tightly-crafted, emotional two-hander, in which Sam and Anna, both 29 years old, reflect on their marriage and deal with the spectre of their unfulfilled, post-university dreams. Their narratives never overlap, Sam’s being told while he watches a Manchester City versus Burnley football match on the internet and Anna’s while she is in the gym. Both are flowing with adrenaline, creating a heart-thumping energy that crescendos into the play’s powerful, almost tragic ending.

Yet, while its characters are likeable and the situation in which they find themselves all too believable, there’s a disjointed element to this production that’s hard to shake off. Charlton began the work as a monologue for Sam then added Anna’s side of the story later, and parts of her narrative feel repetitive. In addition, while the two actors vividly portray the fractured couple, there’s a distinct lack of chemistry across the imaginary wall that divides them, ultimately making it harder to feel the true misery of their situation.

But while elements of the performance are weighed down by an over-reliance on shouting and frenzied talking, the subtleties of Charlton’s script ensure that Crush is an engaging theatrical experience, even though the end doesn’t quite fulfil its gut-wrenching potential.

Underbelly, 08445 458 252, until 30 Aug (not 19), 3.15pm, £6.50–£10.50 (£8.50–£9.50).


  • 3 stars

Fringe First Award winner Paul Charlton's moving new play explores the nature of modern obsession set against the backdrop of a fractured but loving relationship. 'An absolute joy' - **** (Scotsman on 'Love, Sex and Cider').

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