Les Enfants Terribles put away the facepaints and the vaudeville antics of previous productions in The Infant, Oliver Langsley’s blackly comic and clever thriller at the Pleasance which takes your nerves and emotions hostage and doesn’t release them until the final twist.
Castogan and Samedi are simply doing their job. Working for an unnamed organisation, they are interrogating Cooper, a seemingly-innocent man who is in possession of a drawing which holds a terrible secret. Strapped to a chair and wearing a clown mask, Cooper desperately protests his innocence as his gentlemen captors try to extract the truth; then, when all else fails, his wife Lilly is also imprisoned as Castogan and Samedi search desperately for the answer: who made the drawing?
The Infant is a tight and gripping hour of expertly-paced comic theatre. Its mood flits between the dark humour of Anthony Spargo’s snakish Samedi and the polite thuggery of Martyn Dempsey’s Castogan; to the unsettling uncertainty of the fate awaiting the terrified Cooper (James Seager) and Lilly (Faye Billing).
Lansley’s script is smart and punchy, with a fast-paced interplay between the captors and captives, where charming offers of cups of tea can feel like the most terrible and loaded threats imaginable. Effective lighting and sound design evoke a horror movie atmosphere; and the simple set is cleverly used to switch the action from inside to outside Cooper and Lilly’s prison.
As the truth behind the drawing’s creator is revealed and motivations become clearer, The Infant has taken you on a satisfyingly terrifying journey through dark and comic territory, which – like the unseen drawing at its centre – leaves enough blanks for you to draw your own conclusions as to what really happened.
The Infant runs until Aug 29 at the Pleasance Courtyard at 14:35