Review: Exterminating Angel – Pulse Fringe Festival

Five dinner guests, hidden agendas, brutal honesty and what could easily be the dinner party from hell – no, not TVs Come Dine With Me but Future Ruins’ Exterminating Angel.

It is difficult to write a definitive review for this piece as, within a pre-defined structure, the actors are free to improvise the dialogue. It makes each performance unique and brutally naturalistic.

As five friends gather around the dirty plates and empty wineglasses, remnants of their dinner party, it is a good job the knives have been cleared away, otherwise who knows what carnage would be inflicted.

What starts as a seemingly innocuous dinner party turns progressively darker and sinister as secrets that perhaps, in the cold light of day, would best remain hidden, are forced out into the open.

To give too much more away would spoil the suspense; however, despite the feeling of catharsis the friends may feel, one suspect the friendships will never be the same again.

Dialogue often overlaps in a cacophony of sound, multiple conversations take place around the table and audiences tune into fragments to give a unique viewpoint. Exterminating Angel also uses that most powerful, yet often underused, theatrical device, silence, to heighten the atmosphere and build a palpable tension. It’s a technique that works well in this dinner party setting, where the flow of conversation often runs dry and there is that uncomfortable pause waiting for a fellow guest to take the lead and break the ice.

The company work well together and in this improvised environment bounce lines of each other with apparent ease. Anna Bolton, Noeleen Comiskey, Gerry Howell, Tom McHugh and James Rigby all create realistic characters, all with a hidden darker side and a sense that there is something more going on beneath the surface that we are only just glimpsing.

Jack McNamara’s direction never provides all the answers, allowing the audience to take their own interpretation away. He does provide the framework for a look into the human psyche and what friendship actually means. There are plenty of comic moments that we can all identify with but, as the behaviour becomes more erratic and bizarre, there are moments that genuinely elicit gasps from a shocked audience.

There is potential for the piece to become even darker than it currently is but, in its current form, it is a deeply layered and darkly disturbing play that will stimulate thought long after the lights dim.

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