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A salacious look at Brit culture today

PUBLISHED: 13:15 08 May 2008 | UPDATED: 17:19 16 August 2010

I suspect that all of us lead absurd lives, viewed from across the street, and Lucy Kirkwood has taken a sharp look at Britain today and what we have to look forward to in the future. The Bush Theatre has installed a decent red curtain to separate the

I suspect that all of us lead absurd lives, viewed from across the street, and Lucy Kirkwood has taken a sharp look at Britain today and what we have to look forward to in the future.

The Bush Theatre has installed a decent red curtain to separate the audience from the players, like a proper theatre, but the available space is so small, that it gives the effect of peeping in on the neighbours rather than viewing a spectacle.Josie Rourke has assembled a disparate but hard working cast to inhabit a land that is slowly sinking under the effects of global warming and rising waters. Scotland is now across a 38 mile stretch of water and Perchik (Bryan Dick) swims over to escape Scot Free after painting scurrilous pictures of the ruling class. He hides out in a butcher's shop in Bradford, but soon finds that he has jumped from the frying pan into the fire (literally, as the shop owners partner is an arsonist) and finds the proprietor (Jamie Foreman) is a frightening creature, with the eloquence of Rigsby from Rising Damp, the distorted dreams of Enoch Powell, and the morals of Fred West.

Luckily his partner, a doxy by the name of Vanessa (Sheridan Smith) is on hand to provide a haven of erotic charms (great costume from Lucy Osborne) and explain that they only moved out of London after Barking became waterlogged and the petrol ran out at Bradford. Serendipity has provided Saul, the butcher with a living of sorts, but meat is in short supply and the hired hands seem to end up in the mincer when other sources dry up. Vanessa, with her push-up basque and penchant for Tammy Wynette is attractive to the young Scots artist but she has a murky past as a Lady Hamilton look-alike in a Conservative Party porno DVD. Although she proves her worth when the Bradford C.I.D. come calling (a very politically incorrect performance from Sartaj Garewal) and she covers for him.A bewildered customer (Nigel Betts) desperate for meat, leaves minus his suit and £500 after Perchik practices his hard sell techniques on him but the butcher is more concerned about the extra- curricular activity with his girlfriend.

This is a free-wheeling, salacious, derogatory look at British culture, past, present and future, and many of the vignettes hit home. Sheridan Smith has created a wonderful character, where Mother Courage vies with Nell Gwynne. She sparkles as Emma Hamilton and confounds as Jade Goody, and the redoubtable Jamie Foreman gives us yet another glimpse of Britain's sub-culture as he proclaims "One day everything will be as it is today".

The idea that Cornwall has been sold off and that Saul has finally cracked and neatly butchered his wife after finding her frozen in the cold store may seem If you can afford to ditch your prejudices and go with the flow, you will be rewarded by an inventive use of invective and subtle sexuality, to paint a picture that we would all rather ignore.

l Tinderbox can be seen at the Bush Theatre from now until May 24.

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