The Acid Test, Cockpit Theatre

Jess, Dana and Ruth are living it up in a London flatshare. Fresh out of uni, they’re drinking and partying like it’s their job and generally loving life. But their blissful bubble is burst when Jess comes home with her dad in tow after her mum kicked him out of the house. As the night wears on and Jim joins in with his daughter and her flatmates’ antics, ugly truths are revealed in each of the four characters and there’s no going back.

Anya Reiss’ second play is a spiky explosion of contemporary young womanhood, and far more interesting than the premise indicates. Jess and her dad’s uneasy relationship becomes the focus, though everyone’s shortcomings collide over the course of a single night of drinking, dancing and cringe-worthy flirting. Ideological clashes drive the conflict and cause it to escalate, with outside events further fuelling tension. Reiss verges on the unbelievable at times but manages to reign in plot developments just enough to keep them surprising but tenable.

The performances from the ensemble of four are strong and evenly matched, with none standing out as a weak link. Director Gabriella Bird finds a good level of pace and energy, though stylised transitions are unnecessary and cause a drop in momentum.

Though written in 2011, the play has particular prescience in light of recent revelations of historic and ongoing abuses in the workplace. Dana’s interactions with her boss are deeply disturbing, though the other two women also experience awful stuff at the hands of men. As much as the play includes coming-of-age, social class, friendship and father/daughter narratives, it’s a roaring exposure of the systemic violence and aggression that women face at the hands of men. And this is a solid production from new company Succubus Productions.

The Acid Test runs through 9 December.

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