Posts Tagged ‘ Edward Bond ’

Red, Black and Ignorant, Cock Tavern Theatre: review

Edward Bond, Red, Black and Ignorant

Photo by Richard Hubert Smith

Dir: Maja Milatovic-Ovadia

The final play in the Cock Tavern’s Edward Bond season takes aim at the atrocities of war. The storyline – in so far as there is one – revolves around a character called Monster and charts, according to the flyer, “man’s decline into greed and despair”.

Maja Milatovic-Ovadia’s production is thoughtfully staged and it was nice to see a more adventurous set in the theatre, courtesy of designers Julia Berndt and Vanda Butkovic. Melanie Ramsay is arresting as a fresh-faced, wide-eyed mother caught in the fray while Andrew Lewis delivers even the most overblown lines with weight and conviction. Alex Farrow is chillingly vacant as the granite-faced soldier who shoots his own father.

These highly accomplished performances, however, struggle to make sense of a bewildering script. The action takes place in a dystopian parallel world in which sons are sold to the state to join the army and there are murders on the street. Bond’s text (re-written for this performance) is highly stylised with some memorable lines – “There’s nothing wrong with him a good post-mortem wouldn’t put right”. It’s surreal and angry but you come away unsure what it is Bond’s exactly angry about.

He has several axes to grind: about the West, world leaders and the technology and machinery of war. How it dehumanises, numbs us and strips life of any value. These are vital points but Red, Black and Ignorant is too preachy, too pleased with itself and too moralising to make them well.

3 Comedy Masks

 

 

 

This review first appeared in the Willesden and Brent Times on 11 November 2010

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There Will Be More, Cock Tavern Theatre: review

This is certainly not one to take the kids to. Edward Bond’s new play, There Will Be More, had its world premiere at the Cock Tavern Theatre in Kilburn last week, directed by Adam Spreadbury-Maher. The play starts with a mother killing her children and closes with incest. And there are precious few laughs in between.

Edward Bond There Will Be More at the Cock Tavern Theatre

Dea, played by Helen Bang, is the mother who silently and chillingly murders her two babies; the rest of the play examines the aftermath of these events, 18 years later. In Bond’s world, violence breeds violence. Dea’s husband, Johnson, played by Stephen Billington, is an up-tight military captain whose violent day job bleeds into his dysfunctional family life. There are everywhere echoes of the Greek tragedies, from Oedipus who sleeps with his mother, to Medea who murders her children (hence the name “Dea”). There Will Be More is Bond’s attempt to write an ancient tragedy for the modern age.

As the “wicked” mother, Helen Bang is initially chilling, silently applying her make-up before smothering her sons. The second Act, however, sees her transformed into an entirely reasonable woman before returning to apparent madness for the third. Bond’s play is all about how we define madness but the point is an age-old one and he adds little to it. Johnson, the militant military husband is played by a staunch Stephen Billington who expresses love through violence and imprisonment. Billington admirably manages to summon up a slither of sympathy from the audience for the repulsive soldier, by blurring the lines between right and wrong, madness and insanity.

Timothy O’Hara (who also played the lead in The Pope’s Wedding as part of the Cock Tavern’s Edward Bond season) plays Dea and Johnson’s son, Oliver. He is vulnerable, innocent but stained by the events in his parents’ past.

This is truly car-crash theatre: the events are horrific but the audience cannot look away. Spreadbury-Maher’s production does not shy away from the raw violence: the set is minimal and the only soundtrack is the audience’s gasps.

Bond’s writing goes to the darkest places you can imagine and then scuttles into the shadows. This level of violence on stage is hard to justify – the original Oedipus story is no less harrowing for the worst violence taking place off stage. Very little actually happens in this play after the first 20 minutes and the play’s structure is incoherent. Bond is trying too hard to shock and ends up blunting his political pen.

The Pope’s Wedding, review

The Cock Tavern Theatre
Dir: Conrad Blakemore

A young man sits gazing at a dead body, surrounded by tins of food. The characters in Edward Bond’s play may speak like those in The Archers, but nothing this chilling ever happens in Ambridge.

Written in 1960, The Pope’s Wedding was Bond’s first play and Conrad Blakemore’s production at the Cock Tavern Theatre is only its second revival in the UK. Set in rural Essex, the play tells the story of farm labourer Scopey, his wife Pat and the old hermit they both look after. As Scopey and Pat’s relationship begins to disintegrate, Scopey strikes up a disturbing intimacy with “Old Allen”. The Pope has nothing to do with it: the rather preposterous title suggests an impossible event.

Tim O’Hara as Scopey goes from awkward teenager to prowling menace smoothly and credibly. He captures Scopey’s sadistic curiosity about Allen’s life by combining a steady gaze and aggressive body language with hollow laughter and niceties. In his turn, John Atterbury as Allen is heart-wrenching as the shrivelled hermit. Under Conrad Blakemore’s direction, Atterbury gives the audience an immediate sense of this man’s simple world. Pat, played by Rebecca Tanwen, is quick, bird-like and bright-eyed: a small-town girl with ambitions to match.

The rest of the ensemble are strong although the opening couple of scenes felt hesitant. Blakemore finds an ingenious way of staging a cricket match on the petite Cock Tavern’s stage and elsewhere manages to recreate the tired boredom of rural labourers after a day’s work. While Bond’s language is sparse even to the point of banality, Blakemore brings out the text’s hints and implications. All accents are flawless and designer Nancy Surman deserves a mention for her minutely observed costumes.

Blakemore’s production makes no apologies for Bond’s preoccupation with everyday rhythms. This results in a play which feels a touch over long, despite its hypnotic naturalism. Overall, however, The Pope’s Wedding is a chilling, thought-provoking, and often funny piece of drama from an exceptionally strong cast.

This review first appeared in the Willesden and Brent Times

The Edward Bond season runs until 13 November.

Theatrigirl’s highlights, 13-19 September

Edward Bond Season – Olly’s Prison, Cock Tavern Theatre, Kilburn

The first play in the eagerly anticipated Edward Bond season at the Cock Tavern, which will culminate with the premiere of a new play. Famed for the violent and controversial subjects of his work, Bond is one of the most important living British playwrights. Olly’s Prison examines a father-daughter relationship gone horribly wrong.

Olly’s Prison: 14 Sep-2 Oct
Edward Bond Season:14 Sep-13 Nov

The Human Comedy, The Young Vic

Set in a small town California during the second World War, The Human Comedy is a coming-of-age story complete with musical numbers. This production, directed by John Fulljames boasts a “Community Chorus” of 80 in addition to the principal roles. The stage might get a bit cosy!

13-18 Sep

Faust at ENO opens this week

Les Misérables, Barbican

To celebrate this ridiculously successful musical’s 25th anniversary, a different cast are bringing the show to the Barbican for a few nights only. A chance to see this hugely popular musical for a more reasonable price!

14 Sep-2 Oct

Krapp’s Last Tape, Duchess Theatre

Good, solid Beckettian stuff: gloom, doom and a funny bit with a banana. With Michael Gambon as the eponymous Krapp, this existential monologue should have plenty of gravitas and absurdity.

15 Sep-20 Nov

Faust, by Gounod, Barbier and Carré, after Goethe, ENO at the London Coliseum

Goethe’s tale of the man who wanted to know everything there was to know gets the operatic treatment courtesy of this new production at ENO. Edward Gardner conducts while Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys) directs a modern-dress production.

18 Sep-16 Oct