Our Shadows Walk (Etcetera Theatre)
Danny Pegg's latest production falls down on its narrative
The plot of Our Shadows Walk, a new play at London's Etcetera theatre, sounds intriguing enough.
The action is set in a 1984-esque dystopia where people can be accused of high treason and eliminated on mere suspicion. It's a world that bears an uncomfortable resemblance Britain today with mass surveillance and "the war on terror".
But Danny Pegg's latest production, which claims to focus on this narrative, falls down on just that point, and this short play plods along without ever really developing its Orwellian premise.
It opens with Terrence, played by Denis Barazi, and Goldsmith, played by Anna McCormick, pledging their allegiance to one another and to the government. Their vows are made on a dark and simple set effectively representing a world in which there is little to hope for and much to fear.
As the drama unfolds it becomes clear that the government inquisitors have as much to be afraid of as the hapless 'accused terrorist' they are interrogating. Indeed, the play's best feature is, perhaps, its exposition of the multiple layers of sheer terror of life in the near future where the hunters themselves become the hunted.
However neither the plot nor the script of the play quite match up to the power of its dramatic ideas. It does sometimes feel as if the playwright is endlessly repeating the same point. But, perhaps we need many such forceful reminders of Orwell's vision of a totalitarian future.
There are sections of the play where the plot is difficult to follow and the characters remain rather characterless, so that it hard to feel much sympathy for them in their downfall.
McCormick and Barazi perform their roles with vigour and the drama does become more compelling when they are onstage together. McCormick deserves particular praise for her performance and she has a strong and magnetic stage presence.
The play is billed as a drama with black humour, but most of the comedy was unfortunately lost on the audience, and during the performance there was little laughter. So in this respect too Pegg's play ultimately fails in what it sets out to do, which is a shame because it does voice a powerful and compelling warning about a world which may be just around the corner or in which we might already be living.