The Days of the Commune, The White Bear Theatre
Friday 21 October 2011
Much is made, by the Gunpowder Theatre Company, of their latest endeavour’s ambition.
The Days of the Commune is one of Brecht’s least-performed plays, we’re told. Cynics might reply that there is a reason for this: a hefty, agenda-ridden account of the Paris Commune, it represents a challenge in any milieu – all the more so when that happens to be behind a South London pub while Chelsea play Everton.
But in fact Days works remarkably well in the fringe environment. With the help of some chalk and a few scant props, we are taken from Hotel de Ville to Austria and back again. The scrappy, cloistered nature of our environment is rather at one with the play’s ethos. And the cheers from the football-watching punters next door almost – almost – add revolutionary fervour.
There are several strong appearances from a broadly youthful cast. As the smarmy Thiers, Steve Wickenden provides a delightful villain, a nineteenth-century Dr Evil. Kayleigh Hawkins excels in her own way, campy and posing. And Alicia Ambrose-Bayly deserves mention for an authoritative Genevieve. Ample scope for admiration – though a problem, perhaps, of cohesion. On occasion, the actors appear to be starring in their own production, their individual styles somewhat at odds with one another.
Conversely, it is when they pull together that they are at their best. There is some well-choreographed physical comedy and some excellent ensemble scenes. It is in dealing with this physicality that director Genevieve Girling demonstrates flair.
It’s a shame, then, that these strengths aren’t always matched in other elements. The script has been conscientiously chopped, but still lingers on too long. Two hours and fifteen minutes is uncomfortable length of time to be cooped up in a room behind a pub. Brecht’s own narrative has been spread too thin, so we end up with plot diversions which neither go anywhere nor contribute, in their slight appearance, to the production’s overall merits.
More than that, though, it is a question of direction. Interpretation is less consistent than the physicality. Too often, the actors trade lines rather than engage in dialogue. A few mumble. Would-be interruptions come after a slight pause, the first speaker’s voice trailing off of its own accord rather than being cut short. They are all problems that need to be fixed. With a few tweaks, Days could be rather enjoyable – and for £13, there are many worse ways to pass an evening.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
- 2 President Obama comments on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 3 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 4 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 5 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
Star Wars: New action dolls launched on Force Friday ahead of The Force Awakens release
First Look at Bryan Cranston transformed into LBJ for HBO’s ‘All the Way’ film
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Jamie’s Sugar Rush, TV review: Defeated by school dinners, Oliver takes on a new enemy
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 200,000 back our campaign
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up