Arcola Theatre, London – until 27 May 2017
Does anyone really win under capitalism? Alexandra Badea’s The Pulverised doesn’t think so. Even though those near the top of the pyramid living jetsetting lifestyles and rolling in cash might live comfortable lives, they are still left feeling broken and hollow. The french play, here translated into English by Lucy Phelps, is a pacy account of four victims of globalisation on different levels of the supply chain.
Constructed of alternating monologues on a post-apocalyptic landscape of gravel and broken computer screens, the script gets to its point quickly and continues to hammer home its message with a propagandist fervour. Though well performed and unashamedly leftist, the text quickly becomes repetitive. There’s not much variation in energy and speed throughout, and few new ideas surface after the first half hour.
The four characters are unnamed – a Chinese factory worker, a Senegalese team leader, a Hungarian product developer and a French senior manager narrate their stressful and soul-sapping work experiences. Some are more compelling than others; all gain gravitas in their juxtaposition. The Chinese woman lives in a cramped dormitory and the French manager watches cam girls and drinks whiskey is business class lounges whilst skyping his sons, and neither are happy as part of this global machine. It’s easy to empathise with all of them, though there is little that shocks or surprises.
Solomon Isreal is the most magnetic of the four, with his fake Armani suit and desire to swim into the sea and never return to the faux-French call centre where he is a middle manager. The rest of the cast are strong and make a polished physical ensemble.
Though the four individual stories have some interesting moments, few are gripping. The whole is more interesting than its component parts, but an even delivery style prevents it from having any real resonance.