‘Meaningful debate, clever thought & persuasiveness’: THE SWORD OF ALEX – White Bear Theatre ★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Rev StanLeave a Comment

White Bear Theatre, London – until 6 October 2018

A confrontation between leader Antonio (Patrick Regis) and Karl (DK Ugonna), one of his ministers who is trying to get independence for the region of Nikal, interweaves with scenes of their own domestic problems.

Antonio’s mistress Calantha (Kate Terence) wants to leave him while Karl’s wife Gina (Georgia Winters) has similar plans. The confrontation between the two leaders occurs during a ceasefire when they meet to try and persuade their opponent to back down from hostilities and violence.

Are ego and aggression the problem? Antonio is arrogant, dismissive, sarcastic and grows aggressive easily. Karl, by comparison, has the demeanour of an underdog but has more fight than first appears.

In between debating who has the most deserving cause and what is best for the country/Nikal, they discuss their favourite whiskies and football – moments of calm amid a storm that increasingly feels about power and saving face rather than the greater good.

Toxic masculinity drowns the tension. Which is part of the problem with the play. Antonio’s behaviour veers towards toxic masculinity and in making him so aggressive it feels like an unnecessary device to create drama rather than letting the tension build in the negotiation. In the end, it drowns out the nuances of their discussion.

Meaningful debate, clever thought and persuasiveness get overshadowed by ego manifested as sneering, sarcasm and physical violence.

The domestic drama adds to the problem. Neither Antonio or Karl conduct themselves very well – to put it mildly – displaying a possessiveness towards their partners that had me willing the women to run away, and quick.

Any surprises in The Sword of Alex come from violent acts rather than revelations but I don’t think that is the play it sets out to be. It feels like a lesson in how ego corrupts power rather than an exploration of identity and negotiation.

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Rev Stan
Revstan really is a reverend (it's amazing what you can buy on the internet) but not a man (the Stan bit is a long story). By day, she is a freelance editor and copywriter; at night, she escapes into the world of theatre and has been blogging about it at theatre.revstan.com since 2007. She says: “I'll watch pretty much anything, from something performed on a stage the size of a tea tray to the West End and beyond. The only exception is musicals. Tried 'em and they just don't do anything positive for me.”
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Rev Stan
Revstan really is a reverend (it's amazing what you can buy on the internet) but not a man (the Stan bit is a long story). By day, she is a freelance editor and copywriter; at night, she escapes into the world of theatre and has been blogging about it at theatre.revstan.com since 2007. She says: “I'll watch pretty much anything, from something performed on a stage the size of a tea tray to the West End and beyond. The only exception is musicals. Tried 'em and they just don't do anything positive for me.”

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