Bloodtide

Melvin Burgess, adapted for the stage by Marcus Romer
York Theatre Royal & Pilot Theatre
Theatre Royal, Winchester, and touring
(2004)

For this writer a theatre programme is something to be savoured after the performance. So I embarked upon Marcus Romer's adaptation for the stage of Melvin Burgess's Bloodtide unaware of the story's "dystopian" setting. Not that the description - the opposite of Utopian, I now appreciate - was immediately familiar.

However Ali Allen's powerful, post 9/11 staging renders further description superfluous. In a world laid waste, characters human and half-human swing, in the first case, athletically between crumbling remnants of civilisation or, in the second, effect the same moves on all fours.

To be honest, this is a young person's adventure and therefore unsuitable for adults of nervous disposition. The fact that the design features DVD projection and live camera work is no problem as similar technology has been around since before Brecht. More inhibiting, to anyone over 40, is the relationship of this play to the computer game.

However there are elements of Bloodtide, at least in this translation, that raise spectres not only of Shakespeare's Macbeth and Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood but also, more to the point, from Sarah Kane's horrific Blasted!

The players, Naomi Cortes, Philip Dinsdale, Andrew Falvey, Karl Haynes, Asha Kahlon, Sarah Quintrell and Rashid Sabitri, flit in and out of the shadows in pairs, often declaiming dialogue with a clarity commendable in such a youthful cast. If this text is written to be enjoyed, ultimately, on the screen, it is certainly played here as old-fashioned theatre.

And if I fail to give a clear account of just what the story line is about, that's because I cannot with honesty be entirely certain. Bloodtide may be a manifestation of convictions and prejudices but it is no less entertaining for that. A sobering spectacle so soon after Madrid - and one from which parents, at least, may learn more than they bargain for.

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole