The Babysitters

Thu 21st February 2013


Kirsten Buckmaster

at 09:34 on 22nd Feb 2013



Two disheveled young hitmen sat eating Chinese takeaway in a decrepit apartment, furnished only by a lightbulb, a threadbare mattress, and some other furniture. “Do you think he wants some?”, one asked the other, who crossed the stage to open the door of a wardrobe, revealing their victim bound, gagged, and emitting muffled screams. “No, I think he’s okay,” said the other man after a contemplative pause, closing the door of the wardrobe and returning to his seat.

Such was the insouciant wit of The Babysitters, a black comedy written by Lewis Meade and Matt Dann that delighted the audience of last night’s DDF performance. Meade and Dann’s script was light on its feet, and extremely well performed right from the outset; few, if any, lines missed their mark. The comedic interplay of Dave (Michael Forde) and Tommy (Meade), the play’s two central characters who find themselves hopelessly out of their depth when a kidnapping job turns sour, was top-notch from the very start, spurred on by an audience who willfully became complicit in Dave and Tommy’s morally reprehensible, but overwhelmingly sympathetic, plight.

The entrance of other characters into the fray, such as the kidnapped Eddy (Will Downes), as well as the higher-tier hitmen Barry (Dann) and George (Alex Morgan), rather than demonstrating the energy the initial duo might have lacked, merely added to the hilarity that Forde and Meade had already set well in place. Barry and George, who are called in to salvage Dave and Tommy’s job, were decorous and restrained; debonair and dapper where the other two were bungling, uncertain, and dirty-mouthed. Arriving in crisp jackets, discussing inanities such as the state of each other’s marital affairs, and donning latex gloves to carry out their dirty work, Barry and George embodied the monumental irony of sadistic hitmen who believe in a touch of class. And possibly the best line of the show played on this staggering discrepancy: George, considering taking up rugby, confessed to Barry that he didn’t see himself as a violent person, while duct-taping an unconscious Dave to a chair in preparation for a bloody reckoning.

The Babysitters did suffer a few minor technical issues, mainly to do with the execution (if you’ll pardon the pun) of the onstage violence. Fake blood was everywhere by the curtain call, but its use in the heat of the action seemed to have needed more rehearsal. And yet, though a realistic portrayal of torture was not what the audience wanted, nor what they entirely got, the play still excelled. Happy to applaud raucously when George’s prolonged attempt to cut Eddy out of his duct-tape bindings finally succeeded, the audience (and I) forgave The Babysitters of any physical shortcomings because at its centre it was comically, and dramaturgically, brilliant.

For me, Forde and Meade’s interactions early on in the play, when faced with the task of torturing the man they had been ‘babysitting’, provided some of the highlights of the show (in particular, Dave’s suggestion that they were going to have to ‘tickle the hedgehog’, amongst other euphemisms). Desperately trying to ready themselves for their task, Dave later adds, “There isn’t a f***ing script, Tommy, just make it up as you go along.” And it was to the immense credit of Meade, Dann, and all involved, that I found it hard to doubt the hilarious events unfolding before me had come about any other, less natural way.


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