Other People’s Teeth is a romantic thriller about an assassin with as much theoretical mathematics as there is murder; a ratio that is as odd to describe as it is to watch. Writer and director Dan Sareen‘s offering to the King’s Head Theatre’s Playmill festival tells the story of Joss (Becky Downing) a newish assassin trying to balance her career with her new boyfriend Simon (Sareen). In the end she must decide whether to go on with Simon or end her professional partnership with fellow assassin Sol (Tom Claxton), a decision that could mean death.
Other People’s Teeth is a play of many questions, big, deep philosophical Garden State-esque questions about love, life – all the important things. Sometimes characters ask each other questions, which elicit lengthy tangent prone responses, other times characters ask to be asked questions for which they provide similarly lengthy answers to, and other times when no one has asked them anything at all, they just go off. The dialogue bounces from one big point to another using the on-stage interactions as a rather frail springboard. Its reminiscent of when you have a friend who wants to make a point in a conversation, and who then makes the point regardless of whether its relevant or not.
It’s difficult to connect with the characters views on religion et cetera when we don’t really know anything about them, except for the fact that they are assassins. The central much-repeated question of “why do you do this” is more relevant to the characters on stage than it is to audience members. We are presented with a few competing versions of why the assassins choose to kill, but they all seem plausible. I don’t disbelieve that Joss kills for pleasure when it is put to her, because she seemingly chose, of her own volition, to become an assassin and I know nothing about her that would contradict that. The ping pong of “you became an assassin for this reason, no it is you who became one for this different reason” can be fatigue inducing as the audience just waits for the answer, whatever it might be, to drop.
Other People’s Teeth’s central relationship which prompts Joss to contemplate a career change, is also oddly not the one I would have bet my money on. Sareen is in his element as the awkward but loveable Simon with an enthusiasm for maths that is never explained (not that it needs explanation). But there is undeniable palpable chemistry between the two assassins, Joss and Sol. However, this could just be the way that the bond between two assassins presents itself. Downing and Claxton give convincing performances that convey the difficulties of living a double life.
The play’s pacing can’t be faulted, and its use of voicemails to transition between different dates and scenes gives the play momentum. However, the characters are thinly developed and its dialogue bounces around without always landing.
Other People’s Teeth played at King’s Head Theatre on 15 July
Photo: Want the Moon