EMMA ROBERTS discovers that the revolution probably won’t be theatrical-ised either.
Corpus Playroom, 18th – 22nd October, 9.30pm, £4-6
Directed by Lowell Bellfield
You don’t need me to tell you that the whole student activism shtick has become pretty trendy of late.
Some of today’s politically active youth really care about current public issues and want their voices to be heard; others just want to dress up in army coats and combat boots and dangle off National Monuments in an attempt to look the part of the revolution.
Either way, apathy is no longer in; these days it’s all about sticking it to the man, learning serious political terminology like the word ‘coalition’ and resurrecting the Che Guevara poster that’s been hiding under your bed ever since your mum took you on that special shopping trip to Camden when you were on the cusp of pubescence, and you bought it assuming that it was just a print of some guy with rad taste in beanies.
Footlight Lowell Belfield has capitalised on the topicality of young freedom fighters by penning Theoretically, a play that seeks to satirise those who possess the interior decorating skills to transform their living room into an anarchist’s headquarters, but lack the commitment and sincerity to legitimise it with any real action.
Disillusioned partners in revolution Max and James sit around wondering how to change the world until the arrival of the charismatically seditious Frank spurs them into action. Chaos ensues. Two female characters hover on the periphery of the drama, minding their own business for the most part, as women should. Plot tangents are picked up and subsequently dropped with casual disregard, which combined with badly sustained character motivations lend the comedy more of a ‘sketch show’ feel than was probably intended.
Photograph courtesy of the production
Frustrating capriciousness aside, Theoretically offers some triumphant moments of laugh-out-loud funny. The simple yet brilliant concept of an anarchist rulebook of how not to follow rules (naturally written in invisible ink to subvert all expectations) was amusing to the audience when the irony was clearly lost on the characters. And some of our onstage insurgents’ completely ineffective efforts to get the world to notice them, such as by occupying their own living room, were hilariously pertinent.
However, the general tone of the play veered into the inanely surreal far too often and too heavily, and when the jokes lost touch with reality, they stopped being funny. A morose and ineffectual tea-guzzling policewoman perpetually shuffling on and off-stage was certainly surreal, but yielded no comedy. Poundland Santa suits, abundant Harry Potter allusions and abrupt descents into exaggerated madness all felt forced and silly for the sake of it.
Whilst the acting, like the writing, tended to be a bit hit-and-miss, it is worth mentioning Amrou Al-Kadhi’s show-stealing turn as Frank. Effortlessly fusing camp histrionics with a 50’s ‘greaser’ look, he commanded the stage with his portrayal of an image-conscious, self-styled renegade, all swagger and no substance. Impressively bendy limbs and popping eyes combined with some brilliant comic timing made the audience reserve their biggest laughs for him.
I also enjoyed Lucy Butterfield’s understated performance as Max’s Girlfriend (whom I may not remember the name of, but I’m going to blame that on the character’s general inaction). It was a pity that most of her part was restricted to looking worried and eating a packet of crisps.
Theoretically is no theatrical revolution. However, I would say it’s not as feeble as lurid Guevara tat in a market stall. It sits somewhere in between the two, and is brave and inventive enough to warrant a watch, no matter what your political persuasion may be.