Tuesday 29 October 2013

Mojo @ The Harold Pinter Theatre

Mojo brings together an excellent cast of actors, including the ever-brilliant Ben Whishaw and Rupert Grint in his stage debut.  It's a shame, then, that the play itself is such a disappointment.

Originally premiering in 1995, Jez Butterworth's play is set in 1950s Soho, London, to the backdrop of rock 'n' roll.  The plot takes place within the 'Atlantic Club' and follows the exploits of its pill-popping employees when the club owner is discovered murdered and cut in half between two bins, leaving the fate of the club hanging in the balance.  What follows is a farcical black comedy with a high speed gangster plot.

Much of the comedy stems from Butterworth's script.  It's wordy, repetitive and full of swearing and adult content, providing plenty of drug-fuelled nonsensical banter and dialogue between the six characters.  What the play lacks, however, is any depth or context.  Beyond the slicked quiffs, sharp suits and the infrequent use of music, the plot has little to do with the rock 'n' roll scene, instead focusing on the murder plot - the majority of which happens offstage.  With little subtext, the play comes across as little more than junked up child's play.

Thankfully, the cast ensure that Mojo remains an entertaining experience.  Daniel Mays excels as Potts, with larger than life characterisation and eccentric physicality, although the real star is Whishaw as Baby.  He truly commands the stage with strength, stillness and a flare for unpredictability, whilst his descent into madness is nuanced and subtle.  By comparison, Grint doesn't quite have the same stage presence, although this is a perfectly solid debut that showcases his comic timing far beyond Harry Potter.

Despite the performances, though, Mojo fails to live up to the hype.  Behind the madness, the shouting and the swearing lies a shallow gangster plot that rapidly loses its mojo.


Watch: Mojo runs at the Harold Pinter Theatre until January 2014, tickets available here.