Ditch, Old Vic Tunnels, London
Friday 28 May 2010
Two minutes' walk from Waterloo Station and a little, graffiti-covered door in a side wall grants you access to a starkly different world. Cold, smelling of mould, and resounding to the thunder of the trains hurtling overhead, this massive underground labyrinth of high, vaulted brick tunnels forms a magical space that has been commandeered by the Old Vic's artistic director, Kevin Spacey, as a subterranean arena for non-profit theatre pieces and art works.
As you make your way to the auditorium, specially constructed for Beth Steel's powerful debut play Ditch, an art installation gets you in the mood for the apocalyptic political and environmental extremities it depicts. A dead hare dangles over a lake of scummy blood. There are suspended soiled sheets that could be the skins of wild animals or seriously messed-up ghosts.
What's impressive about Steel's play – and Richard Twyman's compelling production – is the expert control of mood. A glinting, compassionate humour and a nicely insubordinate sense of absurdity complicates its grim near-future vision of an England now largely waterlogged, its government reduced to a band of fascist strong men.
Dearbhla Molloy is outstandingly good as Mrs Peel, the dour, flintily resourceful manager of the rural outpost with its billet of men who patrol the district for "illegals". She reacts with a withering Irish wit to the trials sent to test her, whether it be her incipiently rebellious young maid (beautifully played by Matti Houghton), or the unwanted amorous attentions of Danny Webb's company leader. In the controlled containment of Mrs Peel's demeanour, you sense the suppressed guilt of the censored past and admire the fortitude that enables her to act with a kind of brutal mercy in the face of devastating news. It's a shame that this is not a promenade production, but Ditch certainly takes you on an indelibly strange mental journey.
To 26 June (Oldvictheatre.com)
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
Arts & Ents blogs
- 2 California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
- 3 School kitchen manager 'fired from Colorado school for giving hungry students free lunches'
- 5 Charles Kennedy 'had better judgement drunk than many sober politicians' says Ian Hislop
Syd Barrett's inner visions
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Simon Cowell 'feels like an idiot' after Jules and Matisse scandal
Game of Thrones season 6: George RR Martin doing 'anything he can' to get new book The Winds of Winter out before next HBO series airs
Game of Thrones, Battle of Hardhome: 20-minute Wildlings versus White Walkers battle took a 'solid month' to film
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 9, The Dance of Dragons: Jon Snow returns to The Wall after epic Battle of Hardhome
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers