Review: If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep, Royal Court

“Do you see a rise in social harmony on the horizon?”

Between this interview for the Evening Standard and the three pages of programme notes that accompany the playtext, Anders Lustgarten clearly sees conventional theatre as a challenge to be met and his play for the Royal Court – If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep – certainly aims to be different. Fitting into Dominic Cooke’s brief to shake up the archetypal middle class audiences at the Sloane Square venue, it offers a illuminating deconstruction of the politics and economics of austerity and promises an alternative but where the first point is definitely delivered, the second remains somewhat unrealised.

Lustgarten has imagined a world not at all dissimilar to our own with the impact of a financial system in meltdown unfurling insidiously throughout society. With traditional avenues closed to them, City financiers plot new ways of making money and alight on the idea of Unity Bonds, wherein “problem families can now be monetised” by the bankers betting on social disorder increasing whilst officially being incentivised by it going down. But this is just the start of a series of short scenes, the rest of which focus on a society which is fast unravelling. Prisons, hospitals, schools all feel the shockwaves of this approach, as services become depersonalised in the endless rush to meet targets and frustrations boil over into violence. Continue reading “Review: If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep, Royal Court”

Review: Step 9 (of 12), Trafalgar Studios 2

“You can’t serve someone a cup of gravy”

What a difference a year makes. Last summer saw Rob Hayes’ play Step 9 (of 12) premiere somewhat off the radar at the New Britannia Theatre (above the better known pub of the same name by Victoria Park), but it has now taken a giant step to receive a new production in the West End’s Trafalgar Studios 2 and snag one of The Inbetweeners for the main role into the bargain. I say this like I know what it means but I have to tell you that I’ve never seen the show and it has languished in my low priority list on Lovefilm for ages now – though I am now given to understand that it is very popular (I don’t think those autograph hunters were there for me…)!

Blake Harrison is that actor, who takes on the role of Keith here, a man recovering from alcohol addiction and working his way through the 12-step programme to serenity and sobriety. As he reaches step 9 – making direct amends to people who’ve been harmed – he invites his long-suffering foster parents Alan and Judith around to his bedsit, but raking over the past on the road to forgiveness – or rather Keith’s interpretation of forgiveness – proves to be a highly provocative and problematic affair. Continue reading “Review: Step 9 (of 12), Trafalgar Studios 2”

Review: Mercury Fur, Old Red Lion

Sarcasm will get you shot

Philip Ridley’s ‘moment’ in London continues with this Greenhouse Theatre Company production of Mercury Fur, which follows the Arcola’s Pitchfork Disney and the Southwark Playhouse’s current Shivered and forthcoming return of Tender Napalm. This desolate tale of a society, not so different from our own, on the edge of collapse is often brutally, crushingly dark as a group of young adults make an existence for themselves in any way they can, even in the most horrifying of ways.

Tucked away in a derelict council flat, brothers Elliot and Darren are setting up for a party organised by the ruthless Spinx to fulfil the request of the ‘Party Guest’. But as it becomes clear what kind of event has been arranged and what terrible desires are being sated, the relentless drive to the disturbing climax takes an appalling twist. But even in the midst of this dystopian, drug-fuelled nightmare, Ridley offers us glimmers of hope: buds of love, friendship, tenderness poke their way through the charred remnants of this world but have to fight incredibly hard. Continue reading “Review: Mercury Fur, Old Red Lion”