Cry Havok – Park Theatre, London

Writer: Tom Coash

Director: Pamela Schermann

Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

Rather than a potential snappy run with deft touches and passion through an extremely interesting and complex story, we are given 80 minutes of stumbling, rambling plod.

The subject of two men in love in an Egypt that’s turning ugly for political dissidents, homosexuals and anyone who the government and police feels are a threat of any kind has so much promise. The set from Emily Bestow is a detailed and gorgeous backdrop to the action and Julian Starr’s sound brings us into the hot and dusty world of Cairo’s back streets – two key elements that spark off straight away and present the initial excitement felt when Mohammed  (James El-Sharawy) bursts into his room, bloodied from a spell in jail without charge.

His British lover, Nicholas (Marc Atolin), soon joins him and through their conversations about the present, future and possibilities we uncover much about their relationship and the context modern Egypt puts it in. The two men change over the course of a few days as Nicholas tries to gain a visa from the British Embassy for Mohammed to join him in the UK, hoping to convince the gatekeeper Ms. Nevers (Karren Winchester) through a boring, easily discovered lie to grant him passage to the UK.

In the tumble of ideas that follow we learn Nicholas is a seriously unlikable character – though it’s difficult to determine if it’s intentional. Throwing some casual racism in when describing the Friday character from Robinson Crusoe, as well as crassness and insensitivity (after, of course, trying to comfort him) when his lover makes it clear he’s not in the mood to be touched. Perhaps the actions of a man desperate to hold onto something he loves, but it’s expressed terribly.

He does, in fairness, put up with the weird, babbling nonsense from the visa official Ms. Nevers – stuttering back to her silly questions with the least convincing lying for love possible. Mohammed’s journey should be the focus here, and Egypt’s, but it’s overshadowed by this silly man. However, even when Mohammed calls him out as having problematic attitudes towards him and Egyptians, it doesn’t serve to push the story on, just make us wonder what the pair are doing together in the first place – and not enough has been done on either character to make us care much what the answer is.

Tangents abound, the performances look like they don’t even convince the performers at times, and an opportunity to dive into an incredible subject is all but squandered. The design and sound save it somewhat, and the ideas it presents gives plenty of fodder for a post-theatre debate. But that’s not really enough of a reason to spend 80 minutes in the company of this play.

Runs until 20 April 2019 | Image: Lidia Crisafulli


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