Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat - 6

Mark Ravenhill
A Gate Theatre, National Theatre, Out of Joint, Paines Plough and the Royal Court co-production
Various locations

Publicity image

The Trojan Women
Paines Plough at Village Underground

Director Roxanna Silbert and Designer Lizzie Clachan along with their talented trio of female actors ensure that The Trojan Women is even better now than it was in Edinburgh. Their efforts are helped by an exciting staging making the most of Village Gateway's large space under railway arches in Shoreditch.

The actresses start on a single raised platform and are then divided before joining for an explosive finale, now topped by a new postscript featuring an army angel.

Written at the beginning of the cycle, The Trojan Women contains many of the characters and ideas that are seen later on, often as the central parts of other plays. This would give the writing here great retrospective depth, even if this piece were not so strong in its own right.

Three ordinary women played by Raquel Cassidy, Michelle Fairley and Deborah Findley represent their gender and their people, our people, under siege and begging for mercy.

They, typical of the "good people" who enjoy freedom, democracy and shopping, ask "why do you bomb us?" It seems an eminently fair question that might as easily be addressed to George Dubya and the three candidates for his job as to Osama Bin Laden and his dedicated minions.

Each of these fine actresses presents a different style respectively naturalistic, passionately fiery and stately. This adds greatly to the impact of a short work that is anyway powerfully emotive and positively scary especially when these characters eyeball audience members asking "Which of you is the suicide bomber?"

After that, the shaken viewers are probably relieved to be released from the amazing tension that The Trojan Women generates as it launches Mark Ravenhill's epic cycle but also acts as a central pillar on which so many of the other plays can rest.

War of the Worlds
Paines Plough at Village Underground

The opening play in Instalment B at Village Underground is rather a disappointment. It is the longest of the plays in the sequence but does not have that much to say.

On a long platform backed by votive candles, four ultra respectable types ooze sympathy for the plight of those in war torn countries, whom they observe on TV from the comfort of their affluent homes. Their excessive reaction is akin to the Diana effect following the death of the late Princess of Wales.

Working as an ensemble, this fickle quartet then gradually becomes less generous until they finally laugh at and condemn as the representatives of the evil the innocents they watch being blown up on the other side of the world.

A little drama is eventually injected as Roxanna Silbert and designer Lizzie Clachan bring the onscreen victim to life so that he really does practically come through the screen into their living rooms.

The acting is fine and the point well made but War of the Worlds adds little to a series in which every play is supposed to operate both independently and as part of an epic narrative that Mark Ravenhill likens to the Oresteia, at least in conception.

Twightlight of the Gods
Paines Plough at Village Underground

The final play at Village Underground is a simple piece juxtaposing life in privileged countries with sub-human existence in war zones.

Deborah Findley's Susan clearly considers herself to be amongst society's most caring people. She is an aid worker in a country that could easily be Iraq.

The play shows her meeting with a former college lecturer, reduced to starvation and penury by the collapse of her country.

Raquel Cassidy gives a moving performance as a woman bussed in to answer questions but taunted by a roll and cup of coffee to the stage where she bravely grabs for food.

Patronising Susan defends her lunch with words rather than actions, explaining that to the starving, food can be fatal.

Without going into great depth, Mark Ravenhill raises a fundamental moral point in this simplest and most moving of stories.

The Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat index

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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