The Theatreguide.London Review
Donmar Warehouse Theatre February-March 2020
If war is by its very nature
disorganised, then absolute war must mean absolute chaos.
forty-minute play seems to carry this premise to its logical conclusion.
But its method is so oblique and its metaphoric vocabulary so opaque as to
be more frustrating than enlightening.
A child witnesses some
atrocities she cannot understand but will never forget. A woman calmly
does her needlework while her husband tortures traitors.
A soldier on leave reports
that last year's allies are now enemies and vice-versa. The animals of the
world join in the war, the alligators siding with one country, the birds
with another, while the deer, who were against us, have switched sides and
are now our allies.
In the middle of this is what
appears to be an extreme trivialisation, as artists are paid to design
ever-more-elaborate hats for weekly fashion parades to distract the
All expectations or laws of
physics ('The Bolivians are working with gravity') are being negated in
the general disintegration of order.
I think. Maybe.
Or maybe the play is about
something else or, as a programme note suggests, is Beckett-like in its
extreme compression and requires dedicated unpacking.
Certainly this somewhat
static revival by Lyndsey Turner, seemingly more interested in designer
Lizzie Clachan's striking visual images, does little to clarify meanings,
characterisations or even plot lines, while the cast too often seem unsure
just who they are supposed to be.
When the play stopped – not
ended, just stopped abruptly – the woman next to me asked 'What was it
'It was about forty minutes long' was all I could, or can now say.
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