Almeida Theatre, London – until 30 September 2017
Guest reviewer: Liane MacIver
From the outset of Against, we are introduced to the aerospace billionaire, Luke, played by Ben Whishaw, who has recently experienced an encounter with God whereby God tells him to “Go where there’s violence”. An idea some people, myself included, may find a bit uncomfortable. Fortunately, we are spared witnessing this encounter (at first). What comes next is a journey to attempt to underpin the root of violence in its many guises. Characters were introduced to acknowledge different types of violent acts including gun violence and sexual violence.
Whishaw is brilliant as the Jesus-like character of Luke, capturing his unrelenting devotion to his quest to understand violence. Without Whishaw, it is hard to imagine the production would have held together as well.
The set was minimalist with a few office chairs, a flat screen on wheels and a bed. New settings were introduced by a beaming sign. The rest of the cast provided strong performances but their stories and characters were barely explored.
The first half of Christopher Shinn’s new play felt long and at times I felt myself admiring the brickwork of the beautiful Almedia Theatre. The second half picked up the pace, from the drawn out first half I was very much relieved at the increase of pace in the latter scenes when Luke’s journey comes to a dramatic end.
Though somewhat enjoyable the play never really scratches the surface, Luke’s project feels well-meaning but superficial. The play touches on current affairs nodding at topical issues in a kind of ticking off exercise rather than providing substance. Overall, the play brings about some interesting themes, it also offers us a short chance to reflect on current affairs but ultimately it falls slightly flat.