• Our critic's rating:
    Tuesday, September 15, 2015
    Review by:

    Alistair McDowall's play transfers from the Orange Tree Theatre to the suitably intimate Temporary Space at the National Theatre where it manages to maintain much of its energy but ultimately loses some of its edginess.

    The main success of this production is the atmosphere created by set, lighting and sound design that effectively puts the audience on edge and plays with their senses throughout the intermission-less drama.

    McDowall creates a dystopian style future where the boundaries between fantasy and reality are firmly blurred. The play begins with a description of the final scenes of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', wherein Zeppo, a Y-front wearing Mancunian property magnate tells Ollie who is looking for her missing sister exactly what happened to the Nazis who also searched for something seemingly unreachable. The message to leave well alone becomes an allegory for each of the central characters, leaving the area of Pomona as being somewhere you'd best avoid.

    He writes exceptionally well for the natural voice, and the rhythms of the dialogue and the pacing of each scene is finely created. The overall structure of the play takes a while to settle down, and by the end we're never quite sure in what order the events occurred. Ultimately it doesn't seem to matter, as the play goes on we become less concerned with finding a narrative path and become more accepting of the scene played directly in front of you - separated by long and intense blackouts that add to the confusion.

    At times some of the acting verges on the hysterical - there's lots of shouting and pointing and not enough light and shade in some of the central characters. Sam Swann is the most compelling performer and changes the tone of the play through his character of friendless jizz-obsessed security worker who is consumed with role playing games. He brings much needed humour to the otherwise overly intense dialogues and gives the naturalism that's missing from elsewhere.

    Director Ned Bennett handles the space exceptionally well, working in the round and blurring the line between audience and stage. The atmosphere is maintained successfully with a driving pace that constantly builds momentum and keeps you guessing until the very end, and even beyond.

    There is much to praise in McDowall's drama, but I was never fully vested in the story or the outcome as well as I should have been. The stakes for the characters remained consistently high, but I wanted to feel affected, instead I felt more intrigued at the play's structure and couldn't get firmly absorbed into the world he had successfully created.


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