If Squid Sport did marriage steerage counselling, it’d appear to be this huis-clos, horror-flecked psychological mystery-thriller, which takes place virtually fully within the confines of a high-spec rental home employed by a pair on their anniversary hoping to pep up their flagging relationship. After just a few nightcaps on their first night collectively, author Emma (Jill Awbrey, who additionally scripted) and husband Henry (Bart Johnson) fall unconscious. They get up locked in and fitted with behind-the-ear implants that ship agonising ache in the event that they don’t adjust to the distorted voice that – initially by way of a rotary telephone, then by way of audio system round the home – bids them: “It’s essential to obey!”
Weirdly, what the voice desires is to teach them within the methods of old style, courteous coupledom. “A person ought to open the door for his spouse,” it says, earlier than having them get into their glad rags and forcing Emma to arrange dinner. As this matrimonial-minded malefactor places them by way of their paces, revealing private secrets and techniques on the best way, it’s unclear if he really is a stickler for sincerity and consideration, or with this coerced parody of marriage is dragging them bleeding and screaming in the direction of the realisation that the whole establishment is a sham.
The eventual reveal feeds into the post-#MeToo panorama of sexual politics a little bit too openly; the underlying tenets about male mindsets are extra suited to the Nineteen Fifties than the 2020s. Among the cat-and-mouse plot mechanics as Emma and Henry attempt to escape, are uninspired, and Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing’s path is as nameless as the home’s lacquered surfaces. However the deft set of deceptions in Held’s ultimate stretch are astutely dealt with, with Awbrey’s circumspect Emma using out this gender slugging match to, if not a completely convincing feminist assertion, then at the very least a assured calling card of a lead function.