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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Bomb
Tricycle Theatre    Spring 2012

Following the model of its Afghanistan project three seasons back, the Tricycle has commissioned nine playwrights to write short plays on the subject of nuclear weapons, and here presents their work in two evenings. Inevitably, the plays vary in style and effectiveness. 

Several of the playwrights construct Shavian debates, setting up situations in which political or moral issues can be discussed openly, even at the sacrifice of much dramatic action or tension. The most successful, both in making the debate engrossing and in clothing it in sympathetic characterisations, is David Greig's 'The Letter Of Last Resort', in which a new Prime Minister must decide what secret orders to seal away for a nuclear submarine captain to open if Britain has been destroyed. 

Ron Hutchinson's 'Calculated Risk', about Clement Atlee and his advisers deciding in 1945 whether to make Britain a nuclear power, skilfully incorporates a lot of background information and data in presenting the arguments clearly and interestingly, though Amit Gupta's 'Option', about India's experiencing the same debate in 1968, and Ryan Craig's 'Talk Talk Fight Fight', about how to deal with Iran today, carry their loads of exposition less gracefully. 

Other writers take the comic or satiric route, with John Donnelly's 'Little Russians' making a Ray Cooney-style sex farce out of post-Soviet Ukrainians trying to become arms dealers, and Diana Son's 'Axis' ridiculing both the USA's demonisation of North Korea and Korea's own Chocolate Soldier pretensions.

Lee Blessing's 'Seven Joys' stretches a good comic sketch idea, nuclear proliferation as a gentlemen's club repeatedly invaded by unwanted new members, far beyond its ability to sustain the joke. 

The other short plays, and a number of brief between-scenes verbatim quotations from various public figures, add little and leave little impression. 

Nicholas Kent directs all the plays, and a cast of eleven double and redouble roles, only rarely getting the opportunity to develop more than instant shorthand characterisations. 

For those who can't get enough on the subject, the Tricycle is accompanying this run with a programme of talks, films and other events. For those willing to settle for less, the second of the two evenings of theatre is marginally the stronger, if only because it has the David Greig play.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -   The Bomb - Tricycle Theatre 2012

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