Cultural Capital podcast: Rob Watt

An interview with the director of a new staging of Neil LaBute's controversial 9/11 play, <i>The Mer

In the third episode of Newstatesman.com's Cultural Capital podcast, I talk to Rob Watt, director of a new staging of Neil LaBute's The Mercy Seat at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington, London. The play, which is set in New York City in the immediate aftermath of the attacks of 11 September 2001, uses the events as a backdrop to an unflinching investigation of human selfishness, dramatising the war of the sexes alongside the beginnings of an altogether more literal one. Though The Mercy Seat was controversial for its apparent lack of heroism upon its first staging in 2002, Watt, directing for Glow Box Productions, praises LaBute's honesty: "LaBute focuses it on the person and asks: 'What would you really do?'"

Cultural Capital podcast: Rob Watt

The Mercy Seat runs until 18 September

Earlier episodes of the Cultural Capital podcast can be found here

Yo Zushi works for the New Statesman. His work as a musician is released by Pointy Records

Yo Zushi is a contributing writer for the New Statesman. His latest album, It Never Entered My Mind, is out now on Eidola Records and is on Spotify here.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Moss Side Public Laundry, 1979

A new poem by Pippa Little.

Childless I arrive with a rucksack,
own no Silver Cross steered topple-high
by the bare-legged women in check coats
and bulging shoes who load and unload
ropes of wet sheets, wring them out
to rams’ horns while heat-slap of steam
dries to tinsel in our hair, frizzles our lips
gritty with Daz sherbert dabs and the mangle,
wide as a room-size remnant, never stops groaning
one slip and you’re done for…

In the boom and echo of it, their calls swoop
over Cross-your-Hearts, Man. City socks,
crimplene pinks and snagged underskirts,
Maggie Maggie Maggie Out Out Out! blasts
from across the park, whole streets
get knocked out like teeth,
in a back alley on the way a man
jumped me, shocked as I was
by the fuck off! I didn’t know was in me

but which I try out now to make them laugh, these women
who scrub blood and beer and come
with red-brick soap, quick-starch a party dress
while dryers flop and roar
before their kids fly out of school,
flock outside for a smoke’s sweet rest
from the future bearing down of four walls and one man.

Pippa Little’s collection Overwintering (Carcanet) was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Award. Her new book, Twist, was published in March by Arc. 

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder