Writer: Mike Bartlett
Director: Adam Penford
Reviewer: John Roberts
Power, greed, corruption, war, religion, protests – there’s no denying that Mike Bartlett’s state of the nation play is ambitious, it’s just a shame that he allows his own political manifesto to sneak in under the radar than allow us the audience to ask questions in what is a thought-provoking play, which here is given a strong production from the third year acting students.
National Theatre director and LIPA Alumnus Adam Penford directs an assured and confident production that utilises the talents of the students well – the plot is rather complicated with many side-stories all interlinking and it’s a credit to this production that the story doesn’t get lost within the politics and rhetoric being hammered across to us – the basic premise is al1 over London thousands of people are having the same nightmare over and over again… only one man seems to understand what they might mean, but John has his own problems and, in coming to help, he has to face his own harrowing past. But has he left it too late to really make a difference?
Played out on a big open stage designed by George Leigh, the set is reminiscent of a modern nightclub with symbolic references to a Roman coliseum, this is the perfect setting for a play that, at its heart, is all about power struggles – this is a modern day gladiatorial battle arena and provides plenty of flexibility in suggesting place and location.
In the central rôle of John, David Knowle’s character portrayal seems to come across a little weak and uninteresting – here is a character we are meant to believe people would flock to in an almost Christ-like way, but there is not enough engagement or energy to really bring the character to life. Luckily the show is saved by a wealth of talent in the supporting rôles.
Rachel – a charity phone chugger is played with assurance from Sophie Cottle, Jodie Micciché gives a nuanced and strong performance as newly elected conservative Prime Minister Ruth – and balances the characters personal and political emotions brilliantly and a scene-stealing turn by Anna Brochmann as school girl Ruby lights up the stage throughout with Joseph Wood giving a strong performance as God-hating academic Stephen.
The production isn’t perfect (hideous aging make-up for starters), but this revival more than holds its own against a timely, yet flawed text – and the students give an energetic and focused final production – with many of them showing real promise as they go out into the professional world.
Runs until 21 November 2015 | Image: Contributed