‘The script is tight & provocative’: WAR WITH THE NEWTS – Bunker Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Laura KresslyLeave a Comment

Bunker Theatre, London – until 27 October 2018

In post-Brexit Britain, the oyster industry struggles. Work is hard and profits are low. But when oyster harvester Captain von Toch sees mysterious images on the ship’s sonar and discovers a new creature that can quickly be taught fine motor skills, he revitalises his business and changes the course of the human race’s destiny.

This adaptation of Karel Čapek’s 1936 novel War with the Newts is set in a dystopian near-future where an intelligent animal species is first exploited by mankind, then rebels against their masters. Slavery, fascism, environmentalism, imperialism and capitalism are all criticised in this multi-faceted story documenting the fall of humanity. There’s a good dose of moral ambiguity, and neither species is painted in a particularly positive light – there is no perfect creature, man or newt.

A trio of TV monitors broadcasts cartoon faces who initially explain that we are refugees, and the story we are going to see is acted out by a high-tech entertainment system. These digital characters periodically interrupt in an increasingly sinister fashion. Though it’s not clear where we are going from the beginning, the outcome doesn’t look good as the narrative follows a fairly standard, nihilistic trajectory.

The three, multi-rolling performers (Everal A Walsh, Nadi Kemp-Sayfi and Sam Redway) are engaging and sharp, with few moments inspiring empathy – it’s a choice that works in a play so critical of humanity’s flaws. There are some immersive/interactive elements that prove to be gratuitous, but Hannah Sibai’s design largely consisting of large plastic storage crates and nautical elements effectively creates the hull of a fishing vessel.

There are some fairly obvious genre tropes at work, but the script is tight and provocative. The set and digital elements reinforce the story and setting well, and the unrestrained ideas send a dark message about humankind’s trajectory.

Laura Kressly on Twitter
Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.
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Laura Kressly on Twitter
Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.