A play of two halves, the Paines Plough-Theatre Royal Plymouth co-production relates the 1970s intertwined stories of the birth of the anti-terrorist squad and the young anarchists whose bombing spree springs from a naïve hunger to rid the world of capitalism but without a plan for its successor.
With beauty pageants and politicians targeted alike, the idealistic quartet are afforded a wordy but mostly interesting dialogue to soapbox its explosive, nihilistic message while their police counterparts are far less articulate and far more stereotypical – and played for laughs.
Opening with the inception of a new, youthful task force to bring to heel those placing bombs in everyday grocery items, a series of snapshots illustrate the stages of the detection with witnesses, anonymous phone calls and threatening communiqués.
Not exactly the thriller as advertised, despite dramatic lighting and staccato messaging, we witness the ordinary family men and women’s submergence into subversive literature bought from left wing London booksellers and dissident music as values are eroded in the hunt to understand the mindset of the extremists.
With some doubling, tripling – and more – up of roles, the talented cast of the excellent RADA trained Patsy Ferran, Scarlett Alice Johnson , Harry Melling (Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films) and Felix Scott manfully keep the attention in a stodgy overlong first half as the search for the uncannily familiar dissidents hots up.
Lucy Osborne‘s filing cabinet, desk and toilet set proves versatile to illustrate walls tumbling down and bombs exploding while writer James Graham‘s counterpart characters nicely raise questions of facets of personality and values.
Interesting but needs a good 30 minutes or more cut and tighter direction
The Angry Brigade plays at Plymouth's Drum Theatre until the 4th October.