by Steven Bloomer.
Southwark Playhouse Shipwright Yard corner of Tooley St/Bermondsey St SE1 2TF To 2 October 2010.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 5pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 1ht 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 September.
Humanity in hot water.
Stupid creatures, frogs. While they’ve the sense (and agility), to leap out when put into a pot of boiling water, they stay contented in the pan if the water’s cold, then heated, not noticing the difference until it’s too late to act. Take my word – or writer Steven Bloomer’s and that of others who’ve used this surprising fact – for it. Don’t, that’s to say, try it at home. Or elsewhere.
Especially as the laugh’s on big-brained us. Bloomer’s point is that we here, now and in England, have been frogs, contentedly getting on with our lives without noticing – or doing anything about – the erosion of liberties in the name, usually, of anti-terrorism. His play’s been in the writing since 2006, and things may (or not) have taken a turn, with the new Coalition government scrapping Identity Cards as a possible first step back from boiling-point.
But loosening the grip on power comes hard to any government, so it’s best to pay heed. Bloomer shows a slightly-ahead future where capital punishment seems to be resumed, while the police have a new confidence going beyond their actual powers – as yet. Less likely in current times, they seem to have resources to build new cells with moving walls of glass behind which spectators (the audience) are alleged to sit. As we’re invited forward for the climax, watching the performance seems set to implicate us, less than convincingly, in police tactics.
For all its serious social purpose, Bloomer’s story operates at a level of hokum, introducing a plot device about outcomes that’s essentially the same as one from a (very) old American TV series of the supernatural. But The Factory’s production is notable not just for its wedged-up properties, elements of a heavy-handed state, and live vocal effects accompanying their use, but intercasting, with actors rotating roles through the run.
This opportunity to play off others’ interpretations and understand aspects of character by doing so might have more play in Shakespeare or Chekhov, but it certainly leads to a calm assurance in a piece which brings current social concerns pretty close to the boil.
Cast: Ben Lambert, Colin Hurley, Alan Morrissey, Paul Sharma, Jethro Skinner, Tristan Beint, John Trindle, Jonathan Oliver.
Director: Alex Hassall.
Designer: Ed Mayhew.
Lighting: Tim Deiling.
Sound: Geoff Hense, The Factory.