Hoors **

Hoors is written by acclaimed writer Gregory Burke, performed by four very good actors, directed by Jimmy Fay, a well experienced and respected theatrical artist, and produced by the well-regarded theatre companies of the Traverse, the Tron and the Ustinov in Bath.  With such a high pedigree, why is this production so lousy?

For blame, one must look to Burke’s script.  Calling it self-indulgent actually gives it far more credit than it deserves.  There is absolutely no reason why this should have been performed; it should have been completely overhauled in workshops or abandoned altogether.  The name ‘Gregory Burke’ and thoughts of ‘Black Watch’ box office numbers must have blindsided anyone from seeing the material for the drivel it actually is. 

Poor Andy.  He has no living family, a bunch of self-obsessed friends and a shallow girlfriend.  In a moment of grief following a death, he proposes to his girlfriend.  She says yes but soon regrets it, not wanting to break his obvious eager heart.  Andy goes off on a stag weekend, a last-minute attempt to enjoy his disappearing youth with old friends where he indulges in drink, drugs, sex shows and a last-minute fling with an air hostess, resulting in his premature death while in transit back home.

That story might have made for an interesting play.  Unfortunately, Andy is only a prop in a coffin.  Instead, the play follows the fiancée, her sister and two of his friends, none of them appealing and all of them unlikeable.

Each character has potential: a widowed fiancée who is relieved of going through an unwanted marriage, a spend-thrift government employee who takes pleasure in designer labels, a modern Don Juan after one final conquest before settling for middle-age and a convicted stalker who doesn’t believe he’s done anything wrong.  Any of these characters could have been interesting, and perhaps they would have worked in the context of a completely different play, but not here.

Burke is a very gifted writer, and there are flashes of that gift throughout.  His previous plays were filled with cracking dialogue, convincing plot and characters one genuinely gave a damn about.  Here, he gives us the cracking dialogue and little else.

And the script is not the only fault to be found.  As shallow as Burke’s characters are, none of the cast members do anything to bring an iota of humanity to their roles, and director Fay seems far more intent on playing with the revolving set than on giving the production any dramatic life.

Hoors is one of the biggest missed opportunities of the year.  It is a shallow play that proves that having a big name attached to a project is not reason enough to produce it.  Everyone involved is better than the work they do here, and the quicker it is forgotten and everyone involved moves on, the better.

Until May 23 at the Traverse, then at the Tron from May 26 to June 6, 2009.

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