Jack Webb reviews Kissing The Floor at the Moser Theatre.
If you are looking for a heart-warming tale of love and its overwhelming power to bring together a comically mismatched couple, this is probably not the play for you. If you are seeking respite from weeks of brain-curdling revision with a light-hearted dramatic interpretation of this-funny-thing-called-life, this is probably not the play for you. Kissing the Floor is full on, psyche-rattling, taboo-nudging theatre which exposes you to the seedy and perverted used condom in the public toilets of humanity.
The play is an international first performance of a piece written by Ellen McLaughlin, loosely based on Sophocles’ Antigone (which is famous for introducing the story of Oedipus to the world and making talking to amateur psychologists about a billion times more bullshit). It is centred on three siblings: Paul, who is in prison for charges of breaking and entering, but who also has a history of child molestation; Annie, who was herself a victim of Paul’s abuse but who has retained her sibling loyalty to him; and Izzie, the sister who has disentangled herself from the dysfunctional family and who mainly has the role of narrator. Paul is on the cusp of being released from prison, and through a series of conversations between him and Annie we find out more about the reason he is there and about his warped view on the world around him. Meanwhile Annie desperately tries to convince herself that her brother will fit back into society, something that Izzie is sceptical of, and does her best to make sure that the inmates in the prison don’t kill Paul in the meantime, something that the warden of the prison is sceptical of.
Even though this is not an easy play to watch, that does not mean that it is a chore to sit through. There are some lighter moments, but these often turn out to be the most thought-provoking: This is especially the case when Paul, played by the superb Aaron Dockser, nostalgically recounts his tales of paedophilia with a childish innocence. (Yeah, I said “lighter”, not “light”.) Lara Panahy was also excellent, with her nuanced portrayal of Annie achieving a balance between the stereotypes of emotionally tortured victim and fiercely loyal family member.
According to the Facebook page, Kissing the Floor is set in Great Depression era America, which is not something that was immediately obvious from the scenes I saw. However this does tie in well with the numerous references that are made to the early days of cinema, and the differences between living in the rosy world of the movies and ugly reality. This represents the entire experience of Kissing the Floor: this is not a play that will allow you a fantastical break from the real world, but it is one that is a mature and provocative look at a family stretched to breaking point by the darker side of human existence.
Four stars ****