by Tom Holloway.

Gate Theatre above Prince Albert Pub 11 Pembridge Road W11 3HQ To 12 March 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7229 0706.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 February.

Thin and evasive approach to a serious subject.
A teenage daughter is frustrated by a dad who can’t realise he’s moved on a generation. Trying teen-talk and going back to a child-time obsession with building rows of dominoes only to knock them down again, he’s quietly ridiculous.

Until he quietly becomes more, a benign-seeming warder, offering treats of junk-food and DVDs to keep his daughter in, rather than visiting friends. There, he warns, lie dangers: boys and booze.

Disconcertingly, each quiet scene ends far from quietly, with increasing explosions of sound and light, including the pizza-delivery bike bursting through the wall. Something more than usual’s wrong, just as the lit-up Christmas tree only briefly distracts from the plainness and mess of the anonymous room in Max Jones’ design.

Progressively the menace is located in the relationship behind this night in. And when she turns from unwilling, uneasy compliance with father’s smilingly assertive ideas, to violence, smearing him with ice-cream and eviscerating him then herself – pumping hearts are extracted though it doesn’t stop her talking – the reaction to abuse is plain.

It’s a much dramatised subject, and by now it needs more than this one-strand, blindingly obvious treatment. Fatherland avoids the painful documentation, the progressive destruction of personality, the dwindling of the offender to little more than the offence. Both thematically and in dramaturgical terms it has it too easy; Anthony Neilson’s Relocated at the Royal Court’s Theatre Upstairs three years ago showed it is possible to deal with sexual abuse in a stark, analytical yet non-exploitative way.

Both actors, and director Caroline Steinbeis do their work well, but the high production and acting standards only reinforce how thin and schematic a piece this is. Using a form that creates a past by implication and works through verbal plus visual images to develop a theme is fine. But if the realistic slog of developing events and showing characters in a variety of relationships isn’t employed it shouldn’t seem, as here, a dramatic evasion.

A single point is developed over 70 minutes. Strindberg, in his two-hander The Stronger said as much (on a different matter) in under half the time.

Cast: Jonathan McGuinness, Angela Terence.

Director: Caroline Steinbeis.
Designer: Max Jones.
Lighting: Johanna Town.
Sound: Simon Slater.
Assistant director: Stella Odunlami.

2011-02-23 14:39:00

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