Review: For King and Country, Southwark Playhouse

For King and Country at the Southwark Playhouse proves an ineffective revival in this centenary year of  WWI’s end

“It’s a bit amateur to plead for justice”

Belatedly, I found out that this play hasn’t been performed in London for 30-odd years and in this case, it is tempting to say you can see why. The intent behind John Wilson’s 1963 play For King and Country is certainly honorable, a courtroom drama about a WWI soldier who deserted his post. And Dilated Theatre’s production at the Southwark Playhouse has merit, the idea that it might serve as an investigation into the issues that we now label as PTSD.

But a contemporary lens reflects harshly on the play, particularly through the prism of the writer’s decade. Watching his interpretation of what happened with our current knowledge of war’s psychological impact doesn’t feel like the most effective tribute to our armed forces as we commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War. My mind constantly wondered why we weren’t hearing either a) a fresh new piece of writing or b) something more historically direct. Continue reading “Review: For King and Country, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Titus Andronicus, Arcola

“Look down into this den and see a fearful sight of blood and death”

The 80s appear to be fertile ground for reinterpretations of classics – recent weeks have seen Romeo and Juliet in Camden market and Sweeney Todd above a greasy spoon, utilising the societal upheaval of the time as a backdrop, and so too does Zoé Ford with this unique and exuberant take on Titus Andronicus. Using This Is England as a key reference point, this is a world of viscerally tribal skinheads and goths (standing in for the Goths) and one in which the enraged pursuit of bloody vengeance feels entirely appropriate.

This is a production that is broad, ballsy and extremely bloody. David Vaughan Night’s Titus is all bovver-booted swagger, Maya Thomas’ cogent Lavinia is distressingly tragic and Rosalind Blessed’s vibrant Tamora is a commendably strong presence as the two warring factions trade rape, murder, mutilations, even cannibalism, as the stakes and everyone’s pride remains too high to entertain anything but the most desperate fight to the end.  Continue reading “Review: Titus Andronicus, Arcola”