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Phil Willmott

Review: B at the Royal Court

B - Royal Court The world feels like a dangerous place at the moment. Getting caught in a terrorist attack on the way home from watching B at the Royal Court is a real if distant possibility.

In this new play by Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderon two young women distract an apparently nosey neighbour and attempt to buy a bomb from a male visitor whilst discussing the practicalities of carrying out an act of terrorism. It begins with spare dialogue in the style of playwright Harold Pinter then lurches via some creaky and obvious plot twists into speechifying.

What a wasted opportunity to explore a topic of immediate concern to us all.

There are four things wrong with this production – the writing, the design, the directing, and the acting.

Let’s start with the writing. Calderon seems so scared of offending anyone that his potential terrorists have none of the misplaced ideology and frail mental health that fuels the terror on our streets. His terrorists are muddled middle class millennials with vague anarchistic leanings. The actors even disguise their skin colour by hiding their faces, presumably for fear of offending any particular ethnicity or maybe to suggests we’re all compliant. But muddled middle class kids aren’t the ones doling out death, it’s the indoctrinated and isolated that threaten us, so to duck out of addressing this is lazy and renders the play facile and pointless at a time when we badly need drama that accurately reflects the chilling reality, not just limp metaphors and symbolism.

Director Sam Pritchard and designer Chloe Lamford, who delivers yet another of her sets that tediously exposes the back walls of the stage in case we forget we’re watching a play (yawn) seem more concerned with style and chic rather than substance. An explosion is suggested by dropping black balloons. A late flash of symbolism so inept it has to be seen to be believed.

What’s worse is that Pritchard leaves the cast all-at-sea as to whether they should be playing the mundane text naturalistically or expressionistically so in the end they do neither.

The actors deliver most of the evening colourlessly. There is absolutely no sense of urgency, of their minds unravelling, of the importance of the life changing events that are unfolding, of the misdirected passion that fuels murder, even of the reality of being in a room with a bomb. Everything is performed in the same monotone with no sense of character development or the outside events that have brought them to this crisis in their lives.

Whether through laziness, cowardice or limited talent everyone involved in this disappointingly executed, limp exploration of terrorism has wasted their time. Don’t waste yours by going to see it.