EFR - Reviews of Other People's Teeth

Other People's Teeth

Thu 2nd – Sun 19th August 2018

reviews

Tamzin Kerslake

at 00:08 on 12th Aug 2018

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‘Other People’s Teeth’ is an episodic arrangement of the two lives of Joss, our protagonist. We are shown flashbacks of her developing romantic relationship, alongside her job as occupational killer. Becky Downing as Joss certainly seemed more at home as the killer, having a strong and passionate approach to her murdering ways; understated at points, it was scarily believable. This is not so much the case with her romantic endeavours. Throughout their two-year relationship, the two never seemed to escape that awkward first meeting stage. Their more intimate moments lacked compassion and came across as uncomfortably forced.

Alienating at points, the script for ‘Other People’s Teeth’ certainly walks a tightrope between ingenuity and arrogance. The philosophical scenarios were posed with a certain smugness, and the play ran the risk of being wrapped up in its own cleverness. It had an air of Martin Crimp’s ‘Attempts on her Life’ about it. Trying to find meaning and identity in a piece where, perhaps, there is none. There isn’t a clear explanation for the desire to kill, or the desire to love. It's possible that, as Crimp so aptly states, the point is that the search for the point is pointless.

The actors all gave enjoyable performances, with a special mention to the unnamed victim putting up with so much abuse. (After a bit of background checking, we believe this to be played by producer Ellen Harris.) You would have thought a production team goes through enough pain dealing with actors without being stabbed by them! Tom Claxton, playing our antagonist, Sol, is the villain you love to hate. He commanded the stage, being particularly enjoyable opposite the adorkable Simon, played by Dan Sareen (both the writer and director of the piece).

I am in two minds about this script. As an audience member I was annoyed by the smugness it posed, yet as an English student I was fascinated, wanting to analyse each word, costume choice and argument. A high-brow script brought to life by a talented cast, 'Other People's Teeth' is an intellectual dream - but take your eye off the ball and it is a nightmare to wrap your head around.

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Andrew Jameson

at 09:58 on 12th Aug 2018

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Opening suddenly, and rather unconventionally, with a Mexican standoff between Becky Downing's character Joss and Tom Claxton's Sol, 'Other People's Teeth' then flicks across a non-linear time scheme to show the events that led to this moment. It explores Joss' developing relationship with Simon (Dan Sareen) and how this starts to interfere with her other life as a hitwoman.

This opening scene has some brilliantly snappy dialogue, which spins the action along nicely while still leaving time for humour. The aside about the definition of a Mexican standoff during a Mexican standoff was a fun way to treat the moment and gave the play an engaging start.

The scenes between Downing and Claxton were generally the best moments. The hostage scenes were well executed and I especially enjoyed Sol's momentary break to change into another one of his garish shirts while he has someone tied up. Caxton's enjoyment of the role was clear to see, and he had some great lines to play with throughout.

In contrast, the scenes focusing on the romance between Simon and Joss felt a lot more clunky. The moments were flat and the chemistry between the two seemed to be lacking. Simon was also saddled with some quite overtly nerdy and awkward dialogue which quickly became a little grating.

Joss goes through some nice development over the course of the play. There was a touching moment after she kills someone – as strange as that may sound – which displayed a growing depth to her character progression. However it is rather undermined by the shallowness of the relationship which is supposedly driving this change.

The splintered timeframe not only allowed for a dramatic opening scene, but also for the interesting process of the audience having to piece together events. However, the placement of the standoff at the beginning, for myself, diminished the power of the play's actual ending.

The change between the different times via projection worked well visually but it often didn't appear to directly feed into the main narrative. The piece as a whole sometimes felt like it was trying to be a bit too clever, and a few of the long explanations of anecdotes or ideas could occasionally drag.

'Other People's Teeth' has some great performances and good moments of writing, but it is let down by some clunky scenes and a tendency to try to be too clever.

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