Review: war war brand war


Corpus Playroom marketing political satire War war war brand war

Opening a week after Remembrance Day, six days after the release of that Sainsbury’s Christmas ad, and on the same day as four Israeli rabbis were murdered inside a synagogue, ‘war war brand war’ simply could not be more relevant.

Yet the play does not open upon a battleground. In fact, there are only three ‘soldiers’ in the entire play: two of them are acting, and the third is a journalist who, made hysterical by the threat of nuclear war, decides spontaneously to join the army.

Instead, this is a play in which war is not fought but marketed, a product put together by a highly strung army of suits and high heels, armed not with guns but with buzzwords. The wholly deserving winner of the 2014 RSC Other prize, ‘war war brand war’ is a comic satire with deeply disturbing undertones, and this production did not let it down.

war war brand war

First and foremost: the set. Where most productions try to work around Corpus Playroom’s weirdly shaped stage as best they can, ‘war war brand war’ has embraced it. While the stage itself is uncluttered, the actors restricted to white blocks and minimal props, the walls have been hung with screens onto which a variety of clips from adverts and combat training tutorial videos are played.

Logistically, the design makes scene changes seem slicker, and the space seem bigger. In the context of the play, key themes – the ambiguous morality of the internet age, the doubletalk of marketing and political spin – come alive before our eyes. In the background of a political crisis, a perfume advert plays. As we try to focus on a confusing rush of essentially empty jargon, the audience is constantly distracted by internet pop-ups.

Running him over would be the only good thing the x could achieve

A politician being spinny

The acting itself is largely strong. Ben Hawkins and David Matthews let the side down a bit, and there were some moments of woodenness and hesitation, but I’ll generously put that down to opening-night nerves. The rest of the cast are fantastic, the roles of the four power women at the centre of the play performed with true flair.

With so many nonsensical buzzwords being tossed about the stage, the dialogue runs the risk of becoming samey, but somehow the three Rebeccas (Cusack, Hare and Thomas – directing must have been a nightmare) bring a new energy to each scene. Kudos.

The balance, in war memorial, between respectful reverence of the dead and glorification of conflict is something I’ve long found troubling, and never more so than this year. I know I’m not the only one. At a time when war is used to sell chocolate and poppies used to sell war, when British foreign policy is as shady as ever and questions are still being asked about Iraq, this is a play you really need to see.

It won’t solve anything; on the contrary, this is a play which asks far more questions than it answers. That’s the point.

Four stars