Those of us who have found Found 111 aren’t just smug but thrilled, for this (one can only call it space) is, at the moment, home to some of the most exciting and intimate theatre London has to offer. Reached by climbing three flights of very unprepossessing stairs, Found III comprises a bar, sitting area and rather claustrophobic scruffy room where the audience are within touching distance of the actors. And it is only those actors at the height of their game who can survive such close scrutiny. Luckily the four cast members of Tracy Lett’s gory thriller, come black comedy, come psychological drama are just that and some!
The bugs of the title aren’t the surveillance camera type that I initially thought, but nasty creepy crawlies that Peter, and eventually Agnes, believe are invading his body. Peter, an impressively paranoid James Norton has been brought to Agnes’s home (well motel room) by her “out there” friend Ronnie. Initially quietly polite, Peter tentatively falls for the drug induced twitchy Agnes, who is petrified of being visited by her ex con, ex husband, Jerry, a nasty piece of work and no mistake. Like Peter, Agnes is a troubled soul and the two of them succumb to love and the belief that the doctors who treated him following his time serving as a soldier in the Gulf War have somehow turned him into a human guinea pig. Convinced that his body has been taken over by aphids, Peter goes to great lengths to try and remove them. This removal, especially when centering on him using a pair of pliers on a tooth, is grueling in the extreme, whilst the sores, which eventually cover his body ensure the audience’s flesh crawls as much as the imaginary bugs.
In the wrong hands the couple’s descent into increasing bouts of paranoia could be farcical, but Norton and Kate Fleetwood as Agnes convey their desperation with a searing honesty. They are both totally plausible. Norton is a master at portraying hidden depths in his characters and his creepy earnestness as Peter is mirrored by Fleetwood’s intensity as Agnes slowly unravels. The whole premise of the plot might be unbelievable but the audience is totally gripped.
Daisy Lewis is a more than plausible Ronnie, whilst Jerry Goss, who plays Agnes’s brutal husband, never fails to exert a definite unease whenever he arrives on the scene. Add Simon Evans’s direction to the mix and the room at the top of the stairs ensures an unnerving and thrilling evening. It’s not a matter of watching and listening to Peter and Agnes unravel on stage from the comfort of our seats in the auditorium, we’re doing so in the motel room with them.