Saturday, December 03, 2011



The Young Company at the New Wolsey Studio, Ipswich

Edward Bond's short play – Passion – written forty years ago for the CND is a pretty unsubtle piece of agit-prop. Green Shield stamps show its age, but otherwise it remains sharp and pertinent as soldiers continue to die in wars they barely understand.
It's a mythic tale of a mother who cannot accept the death of her innocent soldier son. I felt the piece lost its way slightly with the appearance of the Buddha and the Christ [both despair of bringing peace to mankind] and with the sacrificed soldier's poem from the grave, tellingly delivered though it was by Liam Cadzow Webb.
An all-male cast, directed, at least initially, by Rob Salmon, gave a performance of impressive maturity and style, bringing a very physical, aggressive approach to the piece, with cynical shots of cabaret. The ventriloquist grieving mother – an excellent Sam Hume, naively trusting in her monarch – and the badinage between Queen [Jack Brett, in a brilliantly sustained performance of physical and vocal dexterity] and PM [a beaming, Blairish Calum Bateman] was skilfully handled, especially the delete-as-appropriate synonyms in HMQ's speeches.
The Passion of the title – a crucified pig [made by Sam Hadcraft] retains its power to shock, just as the play retains its power to provoke.
The idea of Demo, the companion piece, was to provide a contemporary response to that provocation. What we got was an honest, searching exploration of freedom, and what it meant to the thirteen young actors who stood before us, dressed in jeans and jumpers, and bared their souls.
Freedom's road, for them, was broad and wide-ranging. Laura Norman's direction of this devised piece had some eloquent touchesthe forest of microphones, and the powerful juxtaposition of discussion of freedom, in Saudi Arabia say, with physical restraint. The movementebb and flow, a wave of attack perhaps, the hands stretched achingly into the airwas often effective. The words perhaps less so, but polish would have dulled the raw expression of hopes and fears which characterized the piece. And the "performances", if that's the word, were all strong. Sometimes it felt like a group exercise - " I felt most free when" - but there were great contributions from some individuals: Steve's "B-Tech" self-expression, the extended riff on the freedom to enjoy ice-cream. They ended with Chaplin's closing speech from The Great Dictator ["Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!"].
As they explained in a brief post-show talk-out, they were striving for honesty and integrity, and many ideas were rejected [the bear dressed as Stalin I would like to have survived, though]. The result was unexpectedly moving, a poignant reminder of what it's like to be caught in the turbulent uncertainties of youth. "Passion" of course might have provoked many responses – what has replaced the very real fear of nuclear war, for instance, or the changing role of religion.
An air of innocent naivety, perhaps, but heart-felt and sincere. In that at least it chimes with the Bond.
this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews

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