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24 September 2014
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April 2003
Pounding Nails in the Floor With My Forehead - review
The dark humour of "Pounding..." in a poster.
The dark humour of "Pounding..." in a poster.
Dark, intense and humorous theatre can be a tricky combination. We sent Miriam Quick to see if Oxford's Cracked Actor theatre company pulled it off.
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Pounding Nails in the Floor With My Forehead
By Eric Bogosian

April 24 - 26
The Burton Taylor

By Miriam Quick

Theatrical 'intensity', when badly executed, can be excruciating. Eric Bogosian's 'Pounding Nails in the Floor With My Forehead', a torrent of bile bubbling with edgy wit and shot through with moral outrage, could so easily be ruined in the wrong hands. Fortunately, this production is challenging in the very best sense of the word.

Cracked Actor theatre company's first solo show features the phenomenally talented Marcus Dilley, who plays 11 different, equally undesirable characters, each a particular satirical slant on the dirty underbelly of modern American society.

Dilley is entrancing: switching between roles with kaleidoscopic ease, instantly and absolutely convincing whether playing the malevolent tramp, Bible-bashing cleric, life insurance salesman or self-help guru. His style is confrontational; the savage, blacker-than-black humour relentlessly spot-on.

Bogosian's characters line up like Hollywood stereotypes - serial killer, psychotic fan, ageing hippy, therapy headcase - who use various tried-and-tested means to vent their frustration: violence, drugs, religion, psychoanalysis, comfortable picket-fence banality.

His wider preoccupations, too - the Christian hard Right, political apathy, mindless greed and consumerism - are well-worn satirical targets. Like 'The Simpsons' but several shades darker, 'Pounding…' is the sound of America commenting on itself. There is, nevertheless, an underlying and affecting sincerity to many of the monologues that raises them above simple caricature.

Most of all, it is the crushing sense of the characters' individual powerlessness that cuts to the quick. As one says, "You are part of a wider plan. You can't understand it, and you can't change it." A damning play and a brutally effective performance.

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