Review: Toyer

By John Nathan, March 5, 2009

Arts Theatre, London WC2

Cheap, nasty, unsubtle, sexually exploitative and recommended. That is if you don’t mind not just suspending disbelief for good chunks of the late Gardner McKay’s thriller, but leaving it hanging with your coat in the newly reopened Arts Theatre’s cloakroom.

This tawdry play preys on our most easily accessed fears and uses what must be the two most commonly used elements of the psycho-sexual thriller — the lone woman and the killer at large.

In his two-hander, McKay’s variation on the theme involves a psycho known by police and press as “Toyer” because he toys with his female victims before first drugging them and then driving a skewer into their spine. The result is that it leaves them alive in body but brain dead.

This is an evening of “Is he, or isn’t he?” That is, is Peter (Al Weaver), an uninvited night-time visitor to the isolated Los Angeles home of up-tight psychiatrist Maud (Alice Krige) the aforementioned psycho, or is he just an irritatingly camp lovelorn loser?

Although Maud is a fiercely intelligent and all too aware of the Toyer’s activities, she is, you see, sexually frustrated enough to risk her life for some (torridly explicit) sex with a stranger who she lets into her home because he seems trustworthy enough. And after he terrorises her with the possibility that he might be the attacker, she lets him in again.

Yet despite these ridiculous shortcomings in plot, William Scoular’s production keeps the tension taught. And Weaver’s mercurial Peter, veering from well-adjusted to mal-adjusted, fascinates enough to keep not just disbelief at bay, but impatience too.

(Tel: 0845 017 5584)

Last updated: 4:56pm, March 5 2009