Review: The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre

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The Book of Mormon has been making waves since it first appeared on Broadway, a South Park of musicals that lambasts the Mormon religion through obscenity-laced song and dance numbers. Yet for all of that, the show has a heart and a compelling story, of two young men who want to do right by their faith and a community of oppressed and tormented Ugandans who must learn to stand together to save themselves from a military dictator.

Created by the comedy team of Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, The Book of Mormon takes your breath away at every possible moment by daring to go where no West End musical has ever gone before, whether it’s shouting ‘Fuck you God’ in a catchy, full–company number (“Hasa Diga Eebowai”) or graphically depicting homosexual sex acts between devils, Jesus, the main character’s father and Hitler, among others (“Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”). Not all of its obscenity is for shock value, however, as the characters also speak with brutal honesty about such problems as female genital mutilation and the AIDS epidemic in Africa that villagers in Uganda have to confront on a daily basis. And even as it mocks the tenants of the Mormon religion, with full reenactments of scenes including Joseph Smith and Jesus as well as musical numbers celebrating the necessity of suppressing all troublesome emotions (“Turn it Off”), the musical seems to approve of faith as a whole and what it can do to help people; the naivete of optimistic new convert Nabulungi (Alexia Khadime) provides a heartwarming narrative as she teaches her village to see beyond the immediacy of their own problems.

Elders Price (Gavin Creel) and Cunningham (Jared Gertner) are both complete caricatures of their stock types–the cool, successful one and the nerd who has always been ignored–and intensely relatable at the same time. Audiences will find themselves sympathising with Price’s horror of the brutal conditions in the district even as they root for Cunningham’s enthusiastic and totally fictional retellings of the Book of Mormon to connect with the Ugandan people. Musical numbers are delightfully catchy and dancing unapologetically camp, a full-on musical experience that will keep you laughing or squirming in your seat, depending on how you react to the South Park brand of humour. You may not find the entire show hilarious, but it will definitely make you think, and perhaps come away with a better opinion of what religion can do for people in desperate need of hope.

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Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Apollo

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, adapted by Simon Stephens from the groundbreaking 2003 novel by Mark Haddon, tells the story of Christopher, a fifteen-year-old boy who one night discovers his neighbor’s dog murdered in her yard and decides to investigate who is behind the gruesome death, digging up more family mysteries than he could have possibly imagined along the way. This production, directed by Marianne Elliott, is an extraordinary tour-de-force that combines fascinating lighting effects, innovative staging and levels of meta-narration to provide a telling glimpse into the world of autism.

True to the original novel, Christopher’s act of writing a book based on his experiences proves central to the plot, allowing other characters to pick up and read from it or even hide it for periods of time. The physical presence of the book onstage allows for a significant portion of the action and of Christopher’s thoughts to be narrated by his teacher, Siobhan (Niamh Cusack), and yet this device does not become cliche or uninteresting. Rather, it allows a boy who struggles to express himself to do so deeply and honestly, without having to say the words himself.

Luke Treadaway plays Christopher with a sincerity and steadfastness that would do Haddon proud, maintaining the centre around which the rest of the show revolves. Never faltering in his declarations of what he knows to be true and never holding back from showing us the ugliness of the boy’s meltdowns, Treadaway gives the audience a new insight on what the life of someone like Christopher must be like. Also assisting the actor are a series of dramatic light displays in moments of extreme stress and surreal, slow-motion movement sequences involving the whole cast during chaotic crowd scenes.

Despite the entire book and play being narrated from a single character’s point of view, the portrayals of other characters were remarkably nuanced and sympathetic. Christopher’s parents in particular are painfully relatable, sacrificing themselves and suffering constantly for the son they love. The only exception appeared to be Cusack’s Siobhan, who while serving as Christopher’s guiding voice throughout the play gave a surprisingly one-dimensional performance that provided no insight into her own struggles. The only thing that remained clear was her love for Christopher.

By the interval, it is clear that this play is no longer just about finding out what happened to a dead dog. It is about family and betrayal, ignorance and courage. It is about following your heart no matter how terrifying the path appears to be, and finding out that you can do anything if you try hard enough. It is about forgiveness, love and understanding, which hopefully each audience member gains a little bit of in the viewing of the performance. I know I did.

Review: One Man, Two Guv’nors at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

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One Man, Two Guv’nors is a hilarious British farce about love, passion and being very very hungry that has taken the West End by storm. The production, directed by Nicholas Hytner, is a brilliant piece of comedy, toying expertly with the audience and making them laugh and gasp with horror at the same time.

The script is based off the defining Commedia dell’Arte play A Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, and it does not take a particular education in theatre history to grasp the connections; lead character Francis Henshall (Rufus Hound) refers to himself as the Harlequin and asks the audience what his motivation is in a monologue opening the second act. Yet for all its formulaic Commedia structure, the piece flows organically, moving at rapid slapstick speed or drawing out agonising moments of embarrassing the audience members who somehow found their way onstage during the show.

The setting of the play is Brighton 1963, and I will fully admit that without a deep familiarity with that era of British history, I didn’t get all of the jokes (or why they all seemed to hate Australia so much). Yet the themes developed in the play are universal: lovers torn apart by fate, distrust of police authority, cross-dressing and sex. This play is about base passions and stretching every moment to its comedic limits, and the expert ensemble of actors, led by the powerful, engaging presence of Hound, did just that.

I hesitate to give details of the plot as I don’t want to give any jokes away, so it will suffice to say that this story follows the impersonation of a dead man by his twin sister, the breaking off of one engagement for another and throughout it all, a simple man who somehow ends up serving two masters (or governors) at the same time and must keep the two from discovering one another. It is a high stakes game involving both quick wordplay and extremely physical acting, and I couldn’t keep myself from laughing. And from someone who normally hates comedy, that’s saying something.

Review: The Tempest at the Globe

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Having already seen Twelfth Night, a Globe production that transferred to the West End, I was expecting much of the same for The Tempest–an incredibly authentic to Shakespeare’s time production with phenomenal acting and costumes and a rather traditional take on the script. This Tempest, directed by Jeremy Herrin, was something quite different. While many of the costumes were still authentic and the actors’ dedication to the text was clear, this production made some unique choices regarding staging and characterisation that challenged the text, sometimes succeeded wildly and sometimes falling flat.

In the typical form of a Shakespearean comedy, The Tempest follows three groups of characters, the family, the court and the clowns, as they stumble about and get into various misadventures, all watched over by the guiding eye of Prospero and his spirit servant Ariel. In this take on the show, it was the family story that dominated, becoming the most real and believable narrative. Miranda (Jessie Buckley) and Ferdinand (Joshua James) were just the right degree of over-the-top, young teenagers stranded on a deserted island who, quite naturally, fall madly in love within the space of three hours. Their relationship was as hilarious as it was adorable and genuine, while Prospero’s (Roger Allam) overprotective and meddling parenting was refreshingly relatable. His relationship with the teenagers humanised the sorcerer, turning the all-powerful figure into simply a father who wants to see his daughter happy.

While that segment of the narrative shined, however, much of the story involving the other characters lacked a bit of sparkle. The courtiers’ sniping and bragging went too fast and failed to connect to the audience, losing much of the humour those lines should have had. Pip Donaghy’s Gonzalo, longwinded and oblivious, was too realistic rather than Shakespeare’s farcical character, and without the scorn the other characters feel for him being made clear, quite simply wasn’t funny. Antonio’s (Jason Baughan) plotting and betrayal barely made an impact, becoming a brief side plot rather than the involved meditation on regicide and usurpation that The Tempest often centres upon. These characters never seemed to have the life to them that Ferdinand and Miranda did, falling neatly into Prospero’s plan without a fight.

The comic subplot, that of the drunken butlers trying to usurp Prospero and take over the island, was decently well done, though I could not understand the reason behind Trinculo’s outrageous comic outfit, oversized horns, bright red codpiece and all. James Garnon’s Caliban was more bumbling and lovable than the outrageous African monster who tried to rape prepubescent Miranda that Shakespeare wrote; the audience on the whole seemed to enjoy it though I am undecided on the interpretation. Colin Morgan’s Ariel, meanwhile, was more a monkey than a spirit, swinging around the stage on handholds and lacking the sort of emotional range and melancholy that makes the character fascinating.

The staging made good use of entrances through the pit, surprising and delighting the standing audience. The puppetry, both the harpy and the wild dogs, was phenomenal, the pieces beautifully constructed and deeply haunting at the same time. (The addition of the Roman gods spirit pageant during Miranda and Ferdinand’s wedding ceremony, however, was just bizarre.) While some scenes were too solemn and quietly symbolic rather than embracing the full chaos that is a Shakespearean comedy, the production on the whole was a crowd-pleaser, doing the Bard’s words justice at the same time. It was oftentimes difficult to follow, and I would recommend having a decent familiarity with the play before attempting to see it or you may frequently feel lost in the story. The narrative of Prospero’s redemption and forgiveness, however, was always clear and believable, becoming the central story around which everyone else revolved.

Review: The Universal Machine at New Diorama Theatre

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A new musical written and directed by David Byrne and composed by Dominic Brennan, The Universal Machine tells the story of renowned yet often under-appreciated mathematician Alan Turing, who spent his life trying to prove that artificial intelligence is possible. In this portrait of the man’s troubled life, the ensemble of actors provide an engaging and respectful interpretation of Turing’s hopes and fears as he struggles to make connections with the people around them.

The New Diorama Theatre is an 80-seat black box theatre, and the production feels as makeshift as it must have been in last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The singers’ only accompaniment is provided by a single keyboardist sitting in the back corner of the stage (who often also lends a voice to the small ensemble during songs) plus the occasional addition of a violin played by one of the actresses when she is not ‘onstage.’ With only one real exit, actors often wait to come onstage in full view of the audience, and quick changes often result in a character’s costume being reduced to a single headband or article of clothing. With undone buttons on shirts and a crooked hanging backdrop, this is clearly theatre still in development.

Yet for all of that, the production shines. The ensemble nature of the show really aids in telling the story, in which people pass in and out of Turing’s life without his control until nothing remains but the man himself. Richard Delaney plays Turing with caution and depth, a perpetually troubled man who still always knows what he knows and never hesitates to say it. He periodically breaks out of the story to narrate events retrospectively to the audience or to reflect on the philosophical implications of his research, but it never feels intrusive to the story being told. In fact, the scene in which, after a silly and yet heartbreaking rendition of ‘Why Not Be Normal?’ Turing and new fiancee/fellow codebreaker Joan Clarke (Cecilia Colby) together leave the present moment and comment upon their former idealism and innocence is one of the strongest moments in the play.

The songs are rather hit-or-miss, with solo pieces simply resembling monologues set to music and ensemble pieces often consisting of one or two lines repeated over and over (‘Sport,’ ‘Building the Bomb’). Despite the unimaginative lyrics, the ensemble’s vocal talents are very apparent, as are the skills of the very small orchestra. The choreography, meanwhile, is clever and innovative without turning the play into a dance musical, allowing the ensemble to move in and out of scenes without interrupting the flow of the action.

Other standout actors include Leah Milner as Turing’s brash and intrusive landlord in Bletchley Park, Mrs Ramshaw, and Judith Paris as Turing’s mother. The only character who does not participate in ensemble scenes when not onstage, Mrs Turing’s presence in the show resembles what it must have in Turing’s life–fleeting and unreliable, yet very emotional and profoundly important when she does turn up again. Her struggle to understand and accept her son forms the backbone of the piece as much as Turing’s struggle to understand himself, and it is impossible to question the love she feels for him. 

The Universal Machine is a story that attempts to comprehend why a brilliant man in the prime of his academic life would be found dead one day in his home next to a cyanide-laced apple. At the end of the show, the audience comes away with a greater level of empathy than I was expecting for the genius computer scientist (before there were even computers) who could have done it all and yet still did so much. The musical is still a bit shaky on its feet, but spot-on acting, an engaging and self-reflexive script and a story that needs to be told make this a show well worth seeing. If nothing else, you will come out of it pondering the same question that Alan Turing debated for so long: ‘Can machines think?’

Review: Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward Theatre

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Jersey Boys, the documentary-style musical about the lives and careers of the iconic Four Seasons, brings a fantastic new life and energy to the classic ’60s band. This revival, directed by Des McAnuff, combines the authentic music and dance of the Four Seasons with a sleek and modern new design to turn a 40-year history into one seamless narrative.

While the structuring of the musical into ‘four seasons,’ each narrated by a different member of the band, felt a bit cliche, those divisions did not carry into the rest of the piece. I was originally put off by the device of the narrator, but these storytellers only serve to accelerate the tale and do not at all exist in the place of real plot or character development, as theatrical narrators so often do. Instead, they make the musical feel like what it is–the retelling of how the Four Seasons got where they were through interviews with the original band members. The story of the play remains mostly chronological, though the narrators are clearly speaking from the present, allowing the audience to really invest in the tale as they hear it. And even though the ‘we make it big and then everything falls apart from the inside’ plot is incredibly predictable (because it does in fact happen so often to musical groups), that doesn’t keep you from rooting for them as everything goes wrong.

Perhaps the most stunning aspect of this production was the staging, in which the base set–which functions as recording studio, stage and sketchy Jersey neighborhood all at once–remains the same, but entire bars and hotel rooms as well as smaller pieces move in and out with flawless precision. With some creative focused lighting, you don’t even notice an entire car has been moved onstage until the characters step inside. A fly system and other clever technological tricks were in full effect, but always to serve the performance and never just for their own sake. Years could go by in the blink of an eye, and you would never know it until the next actor opened his mouth.

Of course, the real star of the show is the music. True to the original tunes in every way but still feeling fresh and vibrant, these songs drive the performance, seamlessly melding in and out of the narrative so it always feels as though the Four Seasons are putting on a show. Even the occasional projection of real television coverage of the concerts from the 1960s only adds to the sense of being transported to the height of their music’s popularity.

While it is rather shameful that in a cast numbering around twenty, all of the female roles can be played by only three actresses, perhaps this says as much about the culture of 1960s pop music as about the musical itself. The men, meanwhile, are eternal, unaging, forever symbols of what they represented in the public eye for their entire careers. And while that does make it difficult to distinguish between characters until they open their mouths and the authentic, stereotypical Jersey accents emerge in full force, the story remains simple and easy to follow. Four Jersey boys who loved to play set out to make it big, and after more hardships than they could have possibly imagined, they made it.

Review: Theatre Catch-up Post

Hello, my about five loyal readers! I have had an incredibly crazy past few weeks, full of lots and lots of traveling and exploring and not nearly enough sleep. Now that I’m finally home, I have time to update the blog. Look out for likely two photo posts showing my various adventures, but because I said I would review every piece of theatre I go see while I’m abroad, here are my mini-reviews of what I’ve seen in the past few weeks.

Potted Potter at the Garrick Theatre

Though clearly a kids’ show, Potted Potter, a parody written and performed by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, was a ton of fun for everyone in the audience. The two actors attempt to perform all seven books of Harry Potter in seventy minutes, and while the gimmick of ‘actor who knows everything to do with the books versus actor who knows nothing’ gets quite old at times, their various observations about what was actually important in each book are often brilliant. Highlights include the slideshow lecture of Prisoner of Azkaban which lays out a formula for the book to satisfy any Potter fan in about ninety seconds, and the Quidditch match in which two rings are suspended from the upper circle and a beach ball tossed into the crowd while a rather terrifying small child from the audience tackled the actor dressed as the Snitch to the ground. The improvised feeling of the whole show keeps it alive and fresh, and keeps the audience eager to see what’s coming next.

Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Nestled away in idyllic Stratford-upon-Avon (photos coming in the travel post), the Royal Shakespeare Company is pulling out all sorts of new tricks for this season’s production of Hamlet. Directed by David Farr, this modern-dress version of the classic play features adorably hipster Horatio and Ophelia, soldiers in full camo combat uniforms and a motif centred around the use of Hamlet’s and King Hamlet’s deteriorating fencing uniforms to signify his madness. This is physical, corporeal Shakespeare, with Hamlet able to fully embrace his father’s ghost, passionate kissing and the completely wild, surreal play-within-a-play.

Mirroring the depiction of Hamlet’s breakdown was the design decision that any debris from earlier scenes would remain onstage throughout the rest of the show, including antlers from the Players’ show and even Ophelia’s body for the entire fifth act of the play. Hamlet’s (Jonathan Slinger) madness felt a little too loud, too outwardly performed for me, losing much of the ambiguous trickster nature of the character, but allowed for a suitably dramatic conclusion. I was also rather confused by the decision to eliminate the character of Fortinbras, crown prince of Norway, who in Shakespeare’s text serves as a clear foil for Hamlet by showing him what the dutiful son and prince should be. Instead of the play concluding, therefore, with Horatio passing off the crown of Denmark to a suitable king who has proved his worth, the ending is a fall into chaos and insecurity about the future of the kingdom. Perhaps a more realistic and modern interpretation of the play, one leaves wondering if that ‘something rotten in the state of Denmark’ can ever be cured.

The Judas Kiss at the Duke of York’s Theatre

David Hare’s play about the downfall of Oscar Wilde received a brilliant revival this season in the hands of director Neil Armfield and actors Rupert Everett (playing Wilde) and Freddie Fox, depicting the beautiful and shamelessly self-centred Lord Alfred Douglas. The play shows two days in Wilde’s life: the afternoon before he is officially arrested for gross indecency (homosexuality) and the evening in Milan after his release from prison when Douglas leaves him. The two acts, showing Wilde at his peak and at his most desperate, could not be more different; while one shows decadence and deference, the other sees Wilde treated with pity while in the midst of poverty. What links the two scenes, other than a tendency toward arguably unnecessary but hilariously shameless nudity amongst the minor characters, is the language of Wilde himself–as brilliant and witty as the writer’s own prose, Everett’s words bring the character to life and make him the centre of the action and energy while hardly even needing to move.

Wallace and Gromit’s Musical Marvels at the Hammersmith Apollo

Commissioned by the BBC, this all-ages performance is a delightful mash-up of entertainment cultures. The first act of the performance focuses more on the orchestra, both their actual playing and the relationship the conductor has with Wallace and Gromit waiting ‘just offstage.’ Pieces both well-known (Claire de Lune, Firebird) and obscure are interspersed with original scenes on the projected screen of Wallace trying to prepare for his piano concerto later in the show. There are a few clip reels that play along with some of the pieces, but the music still kept centre-stage. The climax of the act is an original duet performed by the head of the orchestra and Gromit himself up on the screen: Concerto for Violin and Dog, maintaining both the humour and genuine musical quality of the performance.

The second act of the piece is the more traditional orchestra/film mash-up–the musicians accompanying the full length W&G ‘A Matter of Loaf and Death,’ which is both hilarious and incredibly adorable. While the two halves of the show did not really seem to mesh together, both were very enjoyable, a celebration of both orchestral music and the classic cartoon.

Review: Written on Skin at the Royal Opera House

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Written on Skin, a new opera by composer George Benjamin and writer Martin Crimp, retells a thirteenth century French romance of a young woman named Agnès and the Boy her husband the Protector brings into their home to create an illuminated manuscript for him. A mash-up of modern and medieval worlds in which it is never entirely clear who is in charge of the story, this new opera provides a fusion of the modes of postmodern theatre and operatic performance which results in an innovative approach to storytelling through song.

The cast consists of the three main roles of Agnès, the Protector and the Boy who remain largely in the medieval world, plus a collection of people in modern dress who initiate the action of each scene, dressing the actors and physically placing them on stage as well as performing scene changes and singing the few ensemble movements of the piece. They are always visible, walking at an infinitely slow pace about their modern office environment while the action of the three principal characters takes place in another room. These ‘rooms,’ in fact, are a fascinating design element, a two-story set consisting of cubes of  both the modern and medieval worlds that come together to form a shallow box resembling a picture frame or book into which we are gazing.

The idea of the book plays a great deal of importance in this story. Not only is the Boy engaged in the act of making a book when he has his affair with Agnès, but it is also implied that the modern characters are somehow reading the French story out of a book and bringing it to life. Even the lyrics of the opera, written by playwright rather than librettist Crimp, are very prosaic and narrative, the characters often referring to themselves in the third person (‘says the Boy’) and speaking in relatively modern language.

There is far too much to follow in this opera to be able to understand it all at once. There are the medieval scenes and the modern scenes being enacted simultaneously, the subtitles floating just above the set to help understand the singing, the often overlapping sung narrative and the orchestral component, which rather than supporting the singing directly provides yet another separate component to listen to and attempt to understand. The music never swells along with the singing or at the conclusion of a movement of music, leaving the audience in confusion as to when to applaud or if the longer scene changes were supposed to be an intermission. The singing is flawless, of course, but the music is quite difficult to relate to even for an opera, and by the time the modern and medieval worlds have merged completely with Agnès’s sister and brother-in-law in modern dress interacting directly with the Boy, it is extremely difficult to follow exactly what is going on.

Director Katie Mitchell has created a postmodern masterpiece, but within the already challenging vocabulary of opera it presents more as a collection of fascinating theatrical signs than an intelligible whole. Still, innovation in the world of opera is quite difficult to manage, and Written on Skin certainly accomplishes that. It defies conclusive interpretation of its narrative or overarching meaning, leaving the audience to wonder for long after exactly what story they have just watched.

Review: 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at QMUL

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I have seen this show too many times. And yet, I was glad to see Queen Mary Theatre Company bring something a little new to this iconic musical about a group of preteens struggling to win their county’s spelling bee and advance to the finals in Washington, DC.

There is a great deal of room for improvisation in this script, and in those places the piece shined. Izzi’s Logan had a lovely few lines as she complained about the height the mic was set at when performing her self-appointed duty of holding it for the director’s little brother, one of the audience volunteer spellers. The added sexual tension between Rona and Panch was also a nice touch, and Logan’s fabulous gay Carl-Dad had some fantastic moments of parent-teacher conflict with the adults running the bee.

Other script changes, unfortunately, fell a bit flat. The decision to split Panch into two characters, and then to make one of them crippled, only served to divide interest in the character and made them rather forgettable at points throughout the show. Playing Jesus as overtly sexual to the point of unintelligibility was just bizarre, and Marcy Parks with large nerdy glasses and a wholly unfeminine self-presentation made her eventual outburst much less exciting and believable.

The singing was sometimes fantastic, sometimes a bit painfully discordant. The American accents, when on, were spot-on, but actors had a tendency to lose them completely at points when distracted–they also had the same issue as in my play, where it is clear when the actors are ad-libbing because the lines become much more British. (And I suspect that no one in the cast or crew actually knows what a Bat Mitzvah is, or they would have corrected the pronunciation on that one.) The lighting was fantastic, colourful and quirky, and for a show where there were so many mics and so many possibilities for sound to go wrong, it was remarkable how well the tech went.

Overall, a fun, enjoyable experience, with good music and mostly strong humour. I am very glad I got to see it.

Review: If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep at Royal Court

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If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep, a new play written by Anders Lustgarten and directed by Simon Godwin, questions the British economic policy of austerity by taking it to an extreme–a world in which corporations have found a way to monetise social problems such as crime and addiction. Advertised as a ‘production without decor,’ this performance at Royal Court Theatre depends on its engaging characters and powerful rhetoric to move past being simply a political manifesto into a unique and ethically troubling piece of theatre.

The play follows an ensemble of characters, including the board of executives who found the ‘Unity’ initiative of selling bonds based on social problems, young adults laughing at the very possibility of being able to go to university while espousing virulent racism, and a group of revolutionaries recently branded by the government as terrorists who wish to put the very concept of austerity on trial. Susan Brown shines as an elderly widow named Joan fighting back against condescension from government workers and hospital officials alike even as her electricity is taken away and her injuries ignored. Lucian Msamati plays a Zimbabwean electrical engineer forced to work as a busboy at a pub, stoic and deceptively wise, while Daniel Kendrick portrays the idealistic young man who stabs him with a knife; meanwhile, we witness his optimism being slowly ripped away from him by more powerful forces than he can understand.

The lack of a set and frequent costume changes make the multiple roles played by each actor difficult to follow; the final confrontation between Msamati and Kendrick is confusing until we realise that they are in fact playing the same characters as they were in the earlier scene. Still, the web of connections both political and coincidental serves to illustrate how such disparate people are linked even in a political environment that encourages the antagonising of strangers. The scene between Brown and Msamati in her unheated flat is particularly powerful, while the temporary uniting of the constantly disagreeing revolutionaries over their condemnation of Starbucks is nothing short of hilarious. The witty dialogue often prompts chuckles from the audience, though usually from contemporary political references that one must be ‘in the know’ to understand.

The script unfortunately turns a bit too openly political, too overt with its agenda, in its final scenes, sacrificing its ethical ambiguity to campaign for drastic solutions to Britain’s national debt problem. It is a pity, as I believe the text would have been more powerful had it been left open-ended, but the cast manages to retain the raw humanness of the play even as it begins its political campaigning. Lustgarten has some work to do on his new play, certainly, but it still fulfills its purpose as a fascinating and engaging story that contemplates a rather horrific ‘what if.’