We Are The Multitude
24:7 Theatre Festival
John Thaw Theatre, Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama
If Sarah Kane had conceived her controversial debut Blasted as a laugh-out-loud comedy, this may possibly have been the result.
Set—as well as performed—in a university building (rather than Kane's hotel room), an apparently normal day in a modern office turns into chaos when some kind of a battle begins to rage in the streets outside and the two characters, Lisa and Simon (misprinted as Keith and Leon in the programme), are at risk of being shot or blown up.
But this isn't modern warfare; instead it is the act of a protest group called The Multitude insisting that the Prime Minister acknowledges that education should be a universal right and not only for the privileged few who can afford to pay in the current funding climate.
However, just as Jaws isn't really about a shark, this isn't really about the protest or the bomb; this is just a very effective way of putting two unhappy loners with nothing in common together where they are unable to escape and end up opening their hearts to one another—but it isn't a romantic comedy either.
Simon has intellectual pretensions and keeps himself informed on politics and current affairs, whereas Lisa looks at cat videos on the web and prefers to read celebrity gossip. Neither, however, has any friends at work and both have more to their lives outside the office than the other could guess at.
While the confessions and revelations are perhaps a little contrived sometimes, this is a well-constructed and very funny script that even allows for—quite brave for a new writing festival—some lengthy sections of comic business without any words at all.
Liz Stephenson's direction is perfectly judged, and the cast could not be better-suited to the roles. Amy Drake has impressed already in other local productions, but here she really shows herself to be a gifted comic actress as Lisa. However Andy Blake certainly holds his own against her as Simon to form a perfectly ill-judged partnership.
While there are some nicely-constructed arguments that show both sides clearly through the two characters, it's also a very entertaining romp and highly recommended.
Reviewer: David Chadderton