THEBES LAND, 4Star****, London, To 23 December

by Sergio Blanco
adapted by Daniel Goldman.
literal translation by Rob Cavazos.

4 Stars ****

The Arcola, Studio One, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London E8 3DL to 23 December 2016.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 15 mins One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: William Russell 9 December.

Dark funny, superbly played and directed tale.

The Uruguayan dramatist Sergio Blanco’s play is ostensibly about patricide and allegedly on stage is a real life killer, Martin Santos. But seeing is not believing, although you do believe. Things in this very funny look at what actors do, killers do, with lots of references to the tale of Oedipus and Jocasta are not what they seem and explaining how the audience is taken on a glorious roller coaster ride down some blind alleys – excuse the adjective in the circumstances – would be to spoil thing.

This is exactly the sort of play theatres like the Arcola exist to stage. On Shaftesbury Avenue it would die the proverbial death as what it delivers is not what the audience expects and West End audiences need their expectations fulfilled. We are confronted with a cage, the basket ball court of a prison inside which the killer is hunched and comatose.

The playwright T, a self obsessed and culturally snobbish thespian, splendidly played by Trevor White, embarks on an explanation of how the evening has come about, what he had planned to do, what he failed to do, and what he agreed to do with the powers that be at the Arcola which you can believe or not as you wish. Then you meet Martin, who is truly terrifying. Actually he is not Martin, but Freddie, a mesmerising performance from Alex Austin, the young actor being tested for the part.

But that is to give quite enough away. White is a gloriously gregarious host, engaging the audience in the tale as he meets Martin and auditions Freddie. Overhead televisions screens illustrate the story and spy on the performers while Martin, or possibly Freddie, plays basketball without leaving the stage during the entire run.

The result impressively directed by Daniel Goldman is everything theatre is supposed to be – stimulating, aggravating, thought provoking, innovative, daring and – above all -entertaining. Lies, half truths, truths, damned lies and great ideas abound and there is a lot about what allegedly happened in Thebes which may, or possibly may not, be relevant to what you see and hear. It is up to you to decide.

T: Trevor White.
Freddie: Alex Austin.
Martin Santos: Himself. (Martin is currently serving his sentence in Belmarsh prison, this is not his real name and it is his first stage appearance.)

Director: Daniel Goldman.
Design: Jemima Robinson.
Lighting & Video Design: Richard Williamson.
Sound Design: Elena Pena.
Associate Director: Gianluca Leito.

2016-12-10 18:06:48

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