Review: The Mercy Seat is an intense and agonising reality show

Intense… Andrew Macklin and Lesley Harcourt in The Mercy Seat
10 Jun 2013 @ 9.03 pm
| Entertainment

Intense… Andrew Macklin and Lesley Harcourt in The Mercy Seat
Intense… Andrew Macklin and Lesley Harcourt in The Mercy Seat
Review: The Mercy Seat
Venue: York Theatre Royal, June 9

The Mercy Seat, by Neil LaBute, is a play that, I thought, followed one man’s moral struggle in deciding whether he should come clean to his wife about the woman he’s been seeing, or if he should take the events that should have killed him on September 11th 2001 as a second chance and start again.

Well, that is what it’s about. But I was more enthralled by the intensity of it all and how, despite it being set in the aftermath of a tragedy (which could potentially have overpowered the whole thing), LaBute still manages to capture the reality of the relationship between Abby (Lesley Harcourt) and Ben (Andrew Macklin). So they’re relatable, but I left hating them both.

The whole thing takes place in the front room of a New York City apartment; York Theatre Royal’s Studio lends itself perfectly to this. The stage is surrounded on three sides, which made me feel like I was participating in that reality TV show that never quite caught on, The Audience. Like I was really looking in on somebody’s life. Which is why I think it was so effectively intense, everything felt real. From the remote control on the arm of the sofa, to the ground zero dust on her shoes. This is a testament to the director, Ruby Clarke, really, isn’t it? Surely this type of theatre strives to capture reality.

As much as this play was dark, and really did make me feel uncomfortable as I debated what I’d do in Ben’s position, it had me laughing both nervously and genuinely. It really was quite hilarious in parts. But mostly, I found it quite shocking.

And let this be a warning to you…

Do not go to see this with your best friend’s mum. I made this very mistake. She assures me she wasn’t phased by the dropping of the C-Bomb, discussions of oral sex that would have made Michael Douglas blush, or, ahem, strap ons.

But I am not so comfortable, and the pressure of the situation caused my to crumple my plastic cup of Sauvignon Blanc within the first 20 minutes. Thank heavens glass is banned.