Oxford student Anthony Maskell's minimalist Noose is occupying the early slot at the Burton Taylor all this week. If in your mind you can graft say Samuel Beckett's Happy Days/Oh Les Beaux Jours, whose 'heroine', Winnie, is buried up to her waist and prattles continuously to her husband about life, death and memories, onto Patrick Hamilton's Rope in which a couple of students hold a party around a large chest holding a corpse, then you have something of the nature of Noose.
The play's a three-hander if the dead body be excluded, with the cast enacting what is perhaps a dance of death - literally a waltz at one point - beneath a dangling hangman's noose; not a particularly sophisticated metaphor. As Jacques (a bumblebee of an Ali Porteous) and Seraphine (a still but tart Micha Pinnington) bicker and then argue, their space is invaded by an American Christian (the excellent Josh Dolphin, also the director) seemingly plugging his faith door-to-door, though his confidence and even aggression very soon indicate he's more of an avenging angel with flaming sword than a glad tidings pastor.
Here we seemed to have slipped into Pinterland, and I was put in mind of both The Caretaker and The Homecoming, where stress is generated by an arrival and consequent power struggle. In Noose none of the mysteries of who, why and what are ever cleared up - nothing wrong in that - but this means the play must succeed or fall on the quality and interest of its dialogue. Our three committed players did what they could, aided by nice lighting changes, but I detected little tension in the air. Though there was the odd burst of laughter from the audience of 27, I'd be surprised were the drama to linger in the mind of more than a couple of them the next day.
Despite the brief 45 minute running time, I more than once found my thoughts straying to the welfare of the handily-named James Soulsby as the corpse; first sprawled under a blue tarpaulin, then stuffed by Jacques without the least ceremony into a wheelie bin. His heroically-maintained silence suggested that at least he avoided the onset of full-blown cramp, if not a nasty dose of pins-and-needles.
Afterwards it was a pleasure to speak to the impressive Josh Dolphin. I've an idea he would be well up to the challenge of material much more substantial than this.