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Southwark Playhouse

Ruckus
4.0Reviewers rating

Ruckus is a hard-hitting journey through the experience of coercive control. It neither sensationalized nor flinches from the impact that living with – and loving – a controlling partner has on the life of a young woman.

Lou (played by Writer Jenna Fincken)  is introduced – both to us and to her partner Ryan (only voiced offstage by Matthew Durkan) through her bolshy challenging Ryan about his friend’s drunken behaviour. Lou is confident and cocky and – while clearly not 100% together (her financial problems are raised from the start) she knows her worth. She is cross rather than accepting when she is passed over for a promotion at work. Ryan seems encouraging and supportive offering solutions that will bring Lou into a new home, a new job, and a new Ryan-centred way of life.

Fincken embodies Lou well. She doesn’t imbue her with a saccharine sense of sweetness or perfect victimhood. Equally, Ryan seems – at first – to be just what you want in a partner. And, cleverly and rightly, it is not wholly clear when his romantic nature tip over into darker impulses.

There were a few elements of the piece that worked less well for me. Some of the staging decisions (such as the blurry text messages) I found distracting – taking me out of the piece. I also found the choice of a major incident in the piece had me asking myself technical questions rather than focusing on the horror of the moment. I wonder if a less convoluted incident might have worked better. Finally and most strongly, I found the jump-cut nature of the writing was at first an interesting and intriguing device, it also led to me connecting less with the piece emotionally. Had it been used a little more sparingly, I believe the whole piece would have been just a little more powerful.

But overall, Ruckus is a powerful, important, moving theatre piece. It offers a frank dissection of an area we all – thankfully – hear more about these days, but still stumble around. Lou’s friends struggle both with the changes to their pal. At first, these are positive and cement a sense of the relationship as ‘good for Lou’ that it is clearly hard for them to break. But as Ryan’s behaviour spills over into the loss of their friend and separation behaviours in their lives, they clearly try to get involved and intervene. But they are as lost as Lou as to what that means.

The most powerful aspect of the piece was that sense of loss and being lost. The point at which it becomes clearer and clearer to us as an audience what is going on, even as Lou denies it to us and to herself and others. Watching as the perfectly natural stance of ‘putting on a brave face’ – putting that gloss on our relationship that we all do, we all have to do to get through – becomes something darker and less natural. When optimism becomes lying.

Ruckus is a well-written and performed exploration of a dark, vital subject matter. It offers a broken, distorted glimpse into a life that is deliberately hidden from view – both by the abuser and the abused. Fincken’s piece offers a chillingly realistic glimpse into a world that we all probably know someone who is all too familiar with.

  • One Woman Show
  • Jenna Fincken
  • Georgia Green
  • Southwark Playhouse
  • Until 29 October 2022
  • Time: 20.00

About The Author

Editorial team and reviewer (UK)

Emma Burnell is a freelance journalist writing about politics and theatre. She has her own blog on immersive theatre (Soakedindreams.com). Emma recently completed an MA in Journalism and has worked in communications for think tanks and pressure groups for fifteen years.

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