FALL OF THE KINGDOM,
RISE OF THE FOOT SOLDIER
by Somalia Seaton
Studio Theatre at The Other Place
in repertoire until 27th August 2016
RSC - THE OTHER PLACE
Warwickshire, CV37 6BA
Box Office: 0844 800 1110
Review by Andrew Whiffin
Given the general title of Making Mischief, the RSC are offering a series of short plays giving impressions of life in Britain today to showcase the newly reopened The Other Place. Gone is the metalwork version of the Swan structure, and now the shell of the theatre is a more conventional box with the action at floor level in front of tiered seating.
Somalia Seaton’s Fall of the Kingdom, Rise of the Foot Soldier focuses on the caring and politically correct English teacher Sally Hawkins, struggling with, on the one hand, her reactionary boyfriend Archie – a painfully challenging performance from Ifan Meredith – and, on the other, her responsibility to her intelligent and assertive black British pupil Aisha, who has violently confronted an aggressor’s racism. In a sometimes incoherent but always punchy sequence of scenes, Seaton builds an atmosphere of a post-Brexit Britain struggling to come to terms with its internal relationships, and finding issues of race the most difficult to square.
Madeleine Girling’s excellent abstract set is composed of a jumble of disparate cubes, some like cages, some of perspex with water washing within, many of them used as screens on which to project video fragments of political aggression, and on them the cast of six can adopt a range of postures and elevations which unfussily suggest mood and situation.
Laura Howard gives Sally niceness, intelligence and resilience, but also makes her ultimate impotence clear. Her scenes with Donna Banya’s Aisha – a subtly nuanced performance, managing to suggest defiance and innate virtue as her own inner conflict - are brilliantly delivered and unsettling to watch. So, too, when she is confronted by her best friend and colleague Shabz (Syreeta Kumar).
The chorus scenes of chanting citizens and politicians with their heads in cardboard boxes with emoticon faces drawn on them smack more of student agit prop drama, but, like everything else in Nadia Latif’s tautly directed hour-long piece, are thoroughly committed. It is good to have new writing like this to savour in (since the days of Buzz Goodbody) this cradle of experimental drama, and I am looking forward to the next one.
You can buy two plays for £25 (saving £5), three plays for £35 (saving £10) and four plays for £45 (saving £15).
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Running time: 1hr no interval