The Royal Shakespeare Company are showing their continued commitment to new writing with their new tour of Roy Williams’ play – written in response to Much Ado about Nothing and contemporary events including the second Gulf conflict. Whilst there is much to admire in the work, I am somewhat in two minds as to whether Days of Significance is quite as significant a play as it could be.
Played without an interval, it is a work clearly in 3 acts. The dialogue starts off attempting to recreate the rhythms and quasi-poetry of street language. The intention is clear but the execution is somewhat less successful. Even with the talented cast giving it their all, the overall effect is rather forced and stilted. As we progress through the play, the writing becomes more fluent, involving and frequently moving – particularly in the middle act set in Basra.
The final act suffers from a couple of moments where characters start delivering unrealistic homilies. This again feels stilted and certainly does not fully match the language to the personality of the character. That said, it is a work that shows great potential and I suspect a further revision might result in a very polished and powerful piece of modern drama – almost certainly one for the A level syllabus.
The production is simply, fluid and engaging – much credit to Maria Arberg for her clarity of vision as a director. Similar the technical aspects of the evening are, on the whole, executed well. As I have previously noted with RSC productions, the fight direction is not as smooth as one might wish. Whilst I accept that there is a limit to how realistic a stage fight can be, there is an over-reliance on rather hackneyed moves that diminishes the shocking power of the violent moments in the play.
Standout performances come from George Rainsford as Jamie, conveying his doubts and damaged psyche with simplicity and care and Sarah Ridgeway as Trish who has all the passion and fire of a contemporary Beatrice whilst also never allowing the audience to forget her more vulnerable side.
There is much to admire in what has been created here. It does ask the audience to look at the nature of our modern urban lifestyle and at the demands we place on our armed forces. It does have great humanity and some lively dialogue. It is, to my mind, not yet a fully finished work. However that does not prevent it from being a worthwhile evening in the theatre. The RSC are committed to new writing – long may that be part of their remit.