Sebastian Rex

"A writer with a distinct and intriguing vision"

Jeremy Kingston of The Times

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Jeremy Kingston - Review

Sebastian Rex writes plays that address extreme areas of modern urban life where in various ways those who are powerful exert themselves to hurt those who are weak. The qualities that make these plays remarkable is the value of his ideas, his alert command of language, plot and stagecraft, and a readiness to spring unnervingly comic developments into his plots.


In Living With, the first of the four plays I have seen and admired, the Everyman figure is passively enduring humiliation from his flat mates. One of these starts cramming fistfuls of cake into his ever-open mouth, and this extraordinary incident is both appalling and astonishingly funny.


The focus in Toy Boy is on another passive male, dutifully accepting his role as sexual object, and one of the uncommon qualities in this play is that the hero’s bid for freedom is marked by his shift from speaking in rhymed couplets to prose. The play eventually became something of a puzzle but confirmed Sebastian as a writer with a distinct and intriguing vision.


The sole male in $ellebrity is passive against his will, tied up by two women determined to have sex with him. The development here was more straightforward although, as with all his work, one could never be sure that events might not take a seriously alarming turn.


In Spare, his latest play – the title an anagram of Rapes – he develops his analysis of bad relationships in an unprecedented manner. Parents exploit children, doctors their patients, friends prove treacherous and cruel, but the cast of 8 do not know which character they will be playing until the random distribution of cards at the start decides who will be the doctor, the police, the parent and so on. The parent could be played by a male actor, in which case he will be a father; a female actor will make her a mother. Where gender is concerned the casting is totally non-specific, expressing Sebastian’s argument that exploitation, ridicule and contempt is directed by bullies of either sex upon victims of either sex.


This was a play on a larger scale than his earlier work, and with its cast of 8 switching roles for each new performance no production can be quite like any other – or not until something like 20,000 different configurations have been played. A second visit endorses the impression left by the first, that abuse is to be found anywhere and everywhere.


The richness of his ideas, intensity of vision and the precision of his direction confirm what I felt when I first came upon his plays, that here is a playwright with important messages to convey and with the skill and imagination to do this so vividly that the images he creates stay long in the mind.


                                                                                   Jeremy Kingston,  former critic of The Times