The culmination of the Cock Tavern’s Edward Bond season is Red, Black and Ignorant from the 1984 trilogy The War Plays.
One of the many strengths of this mini-festival has been the chance to witness something of Bond’s enormous range and, while it has a certain amount in common with the recently-performed The Under Room, this 65 minutes of elusiveness takes us in yet another new direction.
It’s no discredit to director Maja Milatovic-Ovadia and her hard-working cast (Andrew Lewis, Russell Anthony, Melanie Ramsay, Martha Dancy and Alex Farrow) that they don’t quite pin down the style of the piece.
It needs to be more stylised, more naturalistic, more didactic and more poetic than they achieve, and at the same time less of each. It’s difficult to even begin dissecting this hydra, as slippery as an eel and indefinable as a phantom.
Much of the time it resembles a Brechtian parable (there’s even a scene where a young man re-constructs himself like Brecht’s Galy Gay as a fighting man, against a chorus of “I am the Army”) but there’s also Greek theatre thrown in, 1970s style agit-prop and a frustratingly intangible futuristic angle.
In some future dystopia where babies are bought and sold and innocents wiped out at the whim of the ruling army, an unborn, bomb-blackened “monster” narrates the story of his life that never was in episodic blocks.
It’s unfortunate that in seeking to capture something of this world, the design of sloping grey walls (Julia Berndt) looks a little too like something from Blake’s Seven, another aspect of the production overshooting Bond’s constantly-moving target.
The strongest contributions may have been earlier in the series but cumulatively this Bond season has amounted to one of London’s theatre events of the year.
- Simon Thomas