Innocence, Arcola Theatre, London
Wednesday 13 January 2010
An African, illegally in Germany, finds a fortune which he spends on an operation for a blind pole dancer. A man takes his work so seriously he brings it home – from the mortuary. A woman visits the parents of a murderer's victims, saying she is the killer's mother. She lies. These are some of the sketches in Dea Loher's Innocence, which Helena Kaut-Howson, director of this splendid production, says cannot be pigeonholed as absurdism or social drama, though it might be called "an ironic 'philosophical fable', designed not so much to frustrate the audience as to compel it to look beyond [sic] the surface". But whether we look beneath or beyond, what do we find?
In Loher's city, sudden, meaningless death has become just one more urban inconvenience. A would-be suicide on a motorway bridge has halted traffic, angering drivers who shout "Jump!" The morgue attendant comes home with corpses (Haut-Kowson's surrealistic improvement on the urns of the original production) because so many are unclaimed. Elisio and Fadoul, who have risked their lives to escape a country where people "die like flies", are the only ones to whom life is holy. The former is ravaged, day and night, with guilt for not saving a girl from drowning herself, even though he cannot swim.
Despite its piquant situations and gallows humour, the play keeps us at a distance – which is Loher's intention. Her work, built on large blocks of Brecht, bristles with alienation effects: each scene is preceded by a descriptive title; characters tell us what they are doing; a disruptive man in the audience turns out to be an actor. But these devices, as stale as the content of the motorway scene, are past packing a punch – after the interval, they reap diminishing returns in a play that seems increasingly feeble and precious.
Loher's liveliest character is also her most decrepit and appalling. Ann Mitchell gobbles up the part of a diabetic who gleefully torments her daughter and son-in-law – "Hello, Franz. Still unemployed?" – chattering about her amputated limbs and dreaming of blowing up petrol stations. Meredith MacNeill is piercingly intense as the pole dancer and the delightful, open-hearted Okezie Morro and tender, precise Nathaniel Martello-White, as the immigrants, are lovable as well as good.
To 30 January (020 7503 1646)
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
- 2 Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
- 3 George Galloway left with severe bruising after attack in Notting Hill by man 'shouting about the Holocaust'
- 4 Lady al-Qa’ida: On the trail of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the world’s most wanted prisoner
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
- < Previous
- Next >