I hope younger audiences realize, amid the laughs, how accurately Hampton’s text catches the curious sterile élite manner of that academic cadre. Horribly funny still is their comic indifference to a larger world: barely acknowledging the murder of the entire Cabinet (creepy to have the Westminster terrorist attack just as it opened).
Pallid pessimistic ghosts roam around a lonely Maine lighthouse in WW2, with heaving sepia seas behind (Mark Holthusen’s projections are ace, atmospheric, and so is Andrew W Riley’s circular pit of a set). The two disaffected phantoms roam around singing, between the two halves of the band, and serve as narrators, when not looming over the other dramatis personae like singing Dementors.
With the horror of Syria fresh on us, and Africa’s travails with Ebola still haunting, this sombre, unforgettable treatment of Albert Camus’ LA PESTE feels urgently present. Neil Bartlett has pared down the novel’s characters to five – the central Dr Rieux played with remarkable balanced strength by Sara Powell.
In this play, two girls on an East Coast shore are childhood friends. Now (in a rather overlong first half) they are school-leavers having all-night beach raves, necking absinthe and sniggering about sex in the manner of girls thee years younger: their territory a half-submerged WW2 pillbox on the shingle, on which they have scrawled memories of childhood and teens.
When a topic is painfully current and theatre plunges in, the heart does not always sing with optimism. But Nina Raine is an old hand, and knows how to make a play work without a virtuous political clunking. Acid-sharp, observant and pitiless this one is as much about normally ghastly marital behaviour as about the drunken-rape case and trial which flashes, with fierce drama, through its core.
Daniel (Gyuri Sarossy) is an American businessman, a bit of a chancer as it turns out, who is in a minor Chinese city trying to sell signage to its new , wannabe-prestigious arts centre. There are plenty of laughs in the existing stiff mistranslations – ‘TO TAKE NOTICE OF SAFE’ , ‘DEFORMED MAN’S TOILET” etc .