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Heaven in Berlin – Testbed 1, London

Writer: Ciaran McConville

Director:Jamie Harper

Reviewer: Paul Ackroyd


Ian Bailey Ida Bonnast 1_1It is East Berlin at the height of the Cold War; a rock musician of some repute (Ian Bailey) arrives to make a new start teaching at a University and rapidly falls for Greta the College administrator (Annabel Capper) and sets up home with her and her apparently talented musician daughter (Heather Nimmo). But then his son (Boris Mitkov)arrives from England determined to make him face up to the responsibilities of his old life. Cleaning their apartment is the enigmatic Ida (Ida Bonnast) a job for which she is clearly unsuited and which had been arranged for her by some apparently benign official whose real motivations turn out to be much more sinister. Her interactions with both couples have a profound impact on all their lives.

Staged as a promenade performance in the cavernous old warehouse space of Testbed 1, Hobo Theatre and the director James Meunier create a dark and atmospheric environment. Effectively lit in a haze of smoke the flaking paint, metal columns and industrial fittings of the warehouse space provided a very evocative setting for a play set in the oppressive atmosphere of the Eastern Bloc. The atmosphere was completed by the superb solo electric guitar playing of Ollie Pash, hauntingly melodic and completely complementing the staging. The audience moved easily and freely between the settings of the numerous short scenes and James Meunier’s direction made excellent use of the available space.

All this should have made for an excellent evening of unusual and stimulating theatre and while the first half, at least, was engaging as the story unfolded the cast struggled to make the characters believable. Some of the dialogue was rather stilted and lines were spoken with an eclectic mix of accents. The promise of the first half was not extended after the interval and as the play reached its cataclysmic and mysterious ending, the lack of empathy with the characters reduced its impact.

One leaves Battersea reflecting on an interesting theatrical experience but neither intellectually or emotionally moved.

Photo: Eliza Power

Runs until 22nd October

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One comment

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    Went with 3 friends not knowing what to expect – was great!
    We felt right in the middle of the drama as the actors moved round us in the evocative warehouse space, lots of great use of lighting and music, wouldn’t have said it had much to do with The Tempest, more about facing up to life in the shadow of the Berlin wall.
    Two hours standing, walking round, (with beer in hand) watching the story unfold – seemed to go so quickly. It’s well worth seeing.