Have I None

Edward Bond
Four Points Theatre
Etcetera Theatre

Ben Jacobson as Jams Emily Wickham as Sara Credit: Lexi Clare
Brad Leigh as Grit and Ben Jacobson as Jams Credit: Lexi Clare
Brad Leigh as Grit Emily Wickham as Sara Credit: Lexi Clare

History is important to those who control society. If it carries the wrong message, it can undermine a government, destabilise a society, build an opposition.

Those in charge of the bleak world of 2077 in Edward Bond’s play Have I None found a simple, frightening solution to the potential problem of history. They abolished it.

Everyone has to live in the present and only the present. Nothing of the past should be remembered. Pictures are destroyed, anything that carries a memory is abandoned. Those who break the rules are punished.

That’s the way the world is and Sara (Emily Wickham) and Jams (Ben Jacobson) believe it's the way the world should be.

The play opens with Sara sitting apprehensively at a table in her home as her husband Jams arrives from a security patrol in which his team caught an elderly woman carrying a picture. He is eager to describe what happened but she barely listens to him. She has been unsettled by mysterious knocking at their front door.

Unexpectedly, a man they claim not to recognise arrives claiming to be her brother Grit (Brad Leigh), even showing a prohibited picture of them as children. Fearing the authorities knowing about the visitor and uncertain what to do, Jam and Sara argue instead about the trivial matter of where they usually sit.

To make matters worse, there are reports of occasional mass suicides of people around the country.

This brisk, well-performed piece is described as a comedy. It certainly holds our attention and a few people did laugh. Its deliberate absurdity generated many a smile but its deep pessimism is unlikely to bring much cheer to many beyond the shareholders of funeral services.

Although Edward Bond wrote the play some twenty years ago, he has added to the programme a very angry foreword in which he connects the play to “Brexit our suicide note”, claiming that Theresa May in one of her Downing Street broadcasts “was Mrs Hitler and we were already the embers of a nation.”

But Brexit isn’t mentioned in the play which has no obvious connection to either side in the debate.

And given thousands of people have recently been defying the law and politicians by occupying key London transport hubs in protest at Climate Change for days on end, Edward Bond’s vision of the march of authoritarianism under Theresa May as Mrs Hitler may be somewhat exaggerated.

The protest seemed to shift the political debate and I suspect was something Theresa May would prefer we forgot.

There’s something worth remembering.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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