Rare Earth Mettle by Al Smith. The Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London SW1. 4****. William Russell.

Overlong Al Smith’s play may be, but the fuss over the naming of the leading character being anti Semitic apart – it has been changed from Herschel Fink to Henry Finn although why the mistake in the first place was not spotted by the Royal Court the moment the script was handed in is a mystery – it is still an exciting, frequently very funny and stimulating evening. Finn (Arthur Darvell), clearly modelled on Eon Musk,is the head of a Californian car company who wants the Lithium available in the Uyuni Desert lands of Bolivia so he can embark on producing cheap electric cars for the American dreamers, and will stoop to any depths to get it. In doing so he comes up against Jo (Lesley Lemon), a British doctor – the land is poisonous – who has reasons of her own for wishing to get her hands on the lithium. It would help in rather questionable research she is carrying out. The local politicians soon realise the value of the lithium for their country, Kimsa (Carlo Alban) the indigenous man who lives in the salt flats and runs a business showing tourists round abandoned made in Britain railway trains and carriages – South America is littered with them, some still in use – also sees there is gold for his people in that there lithium.
Smith stuffs in far too much – the car company directors stage a coup when Henry’s spending seems to be getting out of control resulting in some unconvincing boardroom shennigans but that said he makes one reflect that the way humanity will be saved is when those who made money out of fossil fuels for themselves realise they can do the same by going green.
He also fails to make much out of the fact that Jo is treating Kimsa’s daughter. What he needs is a good editor but he does provide good copy to start with and the first rate cast deliver performances to relish. Darvell as Finn creates and energetic, slippery, yet likeable villain hero, while as Nayra, the local politician who seizes the hour to become President of Bolivia, Jaye Griffiths does the same with someone who is patently serious about doing good for her people while doing good for herself. As Kimsa Alban makes a splendid trasition for someone mocking the gringo and trying to get as many dollars out of him as he can into someone on to a good thing like everyone else. Maybe a little longer in gestation would have been worth it. That way Fink might have been excised straight away. On the plus side is an interesting cut out set by Mol Tran and director Hamish Pirie keeps the pace going sufficiently fast for one not to realise just how the play does go on and on and on. It lasts 3 hours and ten minutes but as a piece of thought provoking theatre it works fine.

Kimsa: Carlo Alban
Hywel/Inti: Marcello Cruz.
Henry Finn: Arthur Darvell.
Calista/Nayra: Jaye Griffiths.
Jo: Lesley Lemon.
Andrea/Aisling: Racheal Ofori.
Anna: Genevieve O’Reilly.
Justin/Albert: Ian Porter.
Alejandra: Ashleigh Castro/Gisella Martinez.

Director: Hamish Pirie.
Designer: Mol Trean.
Lighting Designer: Lee Curran.
Composer: Carlos Gutierrez Quiroga.
Sound Designer: Ella Wahistrom.
Movement Director: Yami Lofvenberg.
Voice and Dialiect Coach: Carter Bellalmey.
Production Photographs: Helen Murray.

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