The Pulverised – Arcola Theatre, London

Writer: Alexandra Badea
Director: Andy Sava
Reviewer: Stephen Bates

For years we have been told that global warming poses the biggest threat to our future, but now Alexandra Badea’s play suggests that globalisation could prove a still greater danger. Viewed through the eyes of four employees of multinational corporations in Europe, Asia and Africa, she shows us how individuals can become controlled, dehumanised, disconnected from reality and effectively pulverised.

tell-us-block_editedBadea is a Romanian-born writer living in France and her play has been translated from French by Lucy Phelps. Its director, Andy Sava is a British trained Romanian. The play’s vision is bleak, its characters entering seemingly unstoppable downward spirals from the outset, telling their stories in overlapping monologues, moving like zombies and playing “dead” while others speak.

Based in Lyon, a quality assurance of subcontractors manager (Richard Corgan) travels the world to be greeted by airports, hotels and offices that all look the same. He loses his sense of time and place, talking to his son via Skype on his lap top while ogling a sex worker on his i-pad. A research and development engineer (Kate Miles) in Bucharest, divides her time between being a mother and making presentations to executives who are falling asleep.

A factory worker (Rebecca Boey) in Shanghai makes boxes for export to France, confined in a tight space like a battery hen and facing penalties for taking a toilet break. Slogans such as “if you don’t apply yourself to your job today, you’ll be applying for another job tomorrow” are drilled into her, as humanity comes in a poor second to statistics. A call centre team leader (Solomon Israel) in Dakar puts on his fake Versace suit and gives his team of cold callers French names, even asking them to eat French cuisine and reeling off a list of  replacements for Boeuf Bourguignon when the beef runs out. Globalisation, it seems, steamrollers over national cultures and identities without mercy.

With the narratives vague and linked together only loosely, the play sometimes loses its grip and it feels overlong at 90 minutes. However, Sava’s messages are discomforting and alarming, all the more so as she offers little hope that the course of the globalisation juggernaut can be changed by any of us little people.

Runs until 27 May 2017 | Image: Dashti Jahfar

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