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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Over There
Royal Court Theatre March 2009

In Mark Ravenhill's new play twin brothers raised on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall are reunited when the Wall falls.

The East German brother at first revels in the colour and consumerism of the West, even to the extent of almost stealing his brother's identity in the eagerness to copy his life. But the attraction soon wears off, and he becomes nostalgic for the order, structure and idealism of Communism.

He can't recapture or recreate it, and ultimately concludes that he is better off dead than not red.

It's an allegory, of course, but unfortunately not a particularly resonant or enlightening one.

That the two Germanies have not fully been integrated, even after twenty years, isn't really news, and making the story come alive by individualising it proves beyond Ravenhill's ability, at least in this case.

The brothers remain allegorical stick figures throughout, with no rounding or reality to give us anything to empathise with or to increase our understanding of the human cost of reunification.

Meanwhile the play's dramaturgy is surprisingly awkward. Suggestions of mysticism in the beginning and of cannibalism near the end seem imposed on the play, neither developed to have allegorical meaning or to round out the characterisations, and it is difficult to judge how Ravenhill intends us to take two frame scenes set in present-day California.

The playwright co-directed this production with Ramin Gray, so we must accept that he approved of a staging that has both brothers in their underwear through most of the evening, with one covered in chocolate sauce, mustard and other goo for no clear reason.

Twin actors Luke and Harry Treadaway play the brothers, and I am inclined to blame their inability to make either one come alive on the text and direction, rather than on any failing of theirs.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Over There - Royal Court 2009