Dare You Say Please – King’s Head Theatre, London

Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

Writer: Aimee Varani

Director: Alexzandra Sarmiento

At some point in the future, everybody who reaches the age of 25 is locked in a small cubicle with another person of the same age. Within an hour, they must decide which one will live, and which will die. And if they can’t decide, neither survives.

Why such a turn of events has developed is never quite explored in Aimee Varani’s play. Her real-time story plays out as Oscar (Leon Finnan) and Maria (Nancy Farino) are placed in the chamber. Initially, Finnan’s loud, obnoxious character dwarfs Farino, who listens meekly as he orates – and when it’s her turn to talk, he interrupts incessantly.

The uneven nature of the dynamic, while clearly intentional, also works against the play’s ability to explore anything in depth. We get some slivers of interest: if Maria is a carer to her father, does that make her more virtuous and, therefore, more deserving of survival? That being the case, is that something she could lie about, or play up, to increase her odds?

Flirtations with the nature of truth – including moderately diverting flights of fancy where the pair make up outlandish professions for themselves, from “deep-sea astronaut” to “glow-in-the-dark pharmacist” – aside, a more interesting vain of discussion begins to open when Oscar reveals his line of work. As a “Guardian”, he is in the law enforcement branch that oversees these trials – but while that would normally grant him an exemption, he has given that right away.

Who he did (and didn’t) give that to is one of the play’s more interesting threads, although while it is pulled on with some force, Varani has too much else she wants to touch upon.

In time, Farino’s character does get to hold her own against Finnan’s dominant personality. But while it may be realistic that the pair get more animated – and with it, more honest and more direct – in the hour’s closing minutes, that does make for an unevenly balanced hour of theatre.

What limits Dare You Say Please is that there’s no clear idea why this scenario is taking place, and why the society in which Oscar and Maria live has adopted a system where half the population dies, and the other half is traumatised. As a result, the stakes never seem real: what should feel like a daring exploration of how far people will go when pushed to extremes instead comes across a poorly-executed round of a short-lived game show.

Continues until 4 February 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Poorly executed

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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