Hen & Chickens Theatre, London – until 17 March 2018
This over the top and silly production shows great enthusiasm from the cast but lacks punch in terms of plot.
Theatre of Heaven & Hell revisits the work of Dario Fo for its latest production – this time Fo’s Abducting Diana is put under the spotlight in Michael Ward’s energetic and bizarre production.
Diana is a millionaire media boss who is haphazardly kidnapped by three deeply unsatisfied individuals who take her to an unknown location until the ransom comes through. But what they don’t know is that Diana is extremely resourceful in her own way – leading to plenty of trouble for the three kidnappers.
While Fo’s play has a potentially perceptive take on capitalism and greed (as showcased in one scene in which Diana explains the hierarchy of capitalism with some funny results), ultimately the over the top nature in which the whole story is played out means that the message is heavily buried under too much silliness for it to be taken seriously or to give any cause for reflection.
This is not perhaps helped by the way in which Ward’s production purely focuses on the comical nature of the play, which means there is no depth or meaning to any of the character’s actions. But it has to be said that there is plenty of enthusiasm and energy throughout it all to keep the audience entertained.
Everything is certainly exaggerated for effect – particularly the characters themselves that can make both the play and the production feel slightly superficial. I’m still bewildered at the appearance and actions of Diana’s mother and the idea of the gun-wielding priest just shows how bizarre this one act play gets.
But the cast for the most part have a good grasp on the material that is reflected in their performances which are energetic and enthusiastic throughout. Elena Clements as the sharp and perceptive Diana is perhaps the strongest performance as Diana begins to take control of the situation and her kidnappers – highlighted by the scene in which she turns the tables on the kidnapper played by Marius Clements to great effect. But all of the cast have excellent comedic timing, despite the hit and miss material they are working with.
Eccentric and meandering, this is a production which never seems quite confident of the material and relies too much on the satire of the play and doesn’t look deeply underneath the comedy to see the play’s seriousness. Sadly, the production overall comes across as chaotic and messy.