The Cut - Mark Ravenhill. Donmar Warehouse, London, February 2006

I have to be honest, I have read The Cut twice and I don't really understand it. The play is ambiguous in tone, but it is this ambiguity that causes frustration. It is as though Mark Ravenhill had an idea, but was not able to fully understand where he was going with his thoughts. The play has the bones of something deep and controversial, but it needs some sort of padding out. I felt like it was a wire frame and clay had been added, but no defining features had been carved or moulded into it!

The Cut centres around Paul (Sir Ian McKellen), a government official who administers "The Cut" to usually sick people. He is unnerved by the entrance of John, a man who desires to have "The Cut" because he think it will offer him freedom. It is obvious that the outside world believes The Cut will offer some sort of salvation, that it has some merit or virtue in being performed. Paul starts to crack under the strain of his job, and shows that he is tortured by what he has to do. He is not used to seeing someone wanting The Cut, he knows how painful The Cut is, and how little this dystopian society truly knows about what is going on.

Paul's wife is seemingly unaware of what her husband does for a living, and therefore conversations with her become strained. She can not begin to understand why he is always upset, but we see him trying to wrestle with his conscience as the conversation turns sour and confrontational.

The play ends with Paul, now in prison, following the introduction of a new Government and the removal of The Cut. He is visited by his son Stephen (Tom Burke) and he shares another disturbing conversation with him, he is seeking punishment for what he has done. He wants his son to admonish him. There is the inferred hope of a utopia for all, but a realisation that such a thing never really exists despite a person's hopes and best efforts. New Governments will come in with their way of doing things, or the Government in power will sooner or later backtrack into the way their predecessors did.

We are never told what "the Cut" actually is. We know it is some form of painful but ambiguous surgery, it is obviously some form of death, but is the death a part of a person and if so which part and why? The play shows a person not happy in their job and needing a way out from the political cruelty of the state, but for me the dialogue was lacking and the play was stilted. It may be one for the stage rather than the reader!