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Lost in the woods: Matthew Fox and Olivia Williams in Neil LaBute's "In a Forest, Dark and Deep" 

We've measured out our lives in Mike Leigh plays, from the  perma-squirm of Abigail's Party to his recent chirpy film incarnations. Leigh has been mocked as a man whose drama revolves round posh people doing impersonations of their cleaners' accents.

It doesn't detract from his status as the most distinctive purveyor of dramatic social satire in Britain. Ecstasy, revived at the Hampstead Theatre, is a punishing, rewarding evening and a reminder of what a long-stay asset he is.

First produced in 1979, Ecstasy turns on the fates of a deracinated tribe of Irish friends in Kilburn. I'm sure Leigh didn't mean it at the time, but it's also a reminder of why the country so desperately needed Thatcher to come along that year and give the country an electric shock.

 We're trapped with the cast in Jean's grim bedsit, where the electric  meter is always on the verge of running out. Alienated from her labour as a petrol pump attendant, Jean bemoans her banishment from the forecourt and being restricted to taking payment from inside her glass box. Siân Brooke is pallid and passive as Jean, enduring loveless encounters with piggish men in a life of quiet despair, enlivened by Harold Robbins novels and a secret gin habit.

It's enlivened by the arrival of her old mate Dawn (Sinead Matthews), who has Pat Phoenix bottle-red hair, a bra on permanent display and an appetite for shoplifting, drinking and any diversion that does not entail looking after her three children.

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