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The Under Room

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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The landlord of the Cock Tavern is clearly an obliging fellow. He’s given his upstairs room over to a theatre company, has allowed them into his pub for the second act of La bohème and now opens up his cellar for the next play in this riveting Edward Bond series.  

The site-specific element of Hamish MacDougall’s production of The Under Room is entirely apt, of course.  Against a whirr of generators, his three actors (Donnla Hughes, Matt Christian Reed and Gavin Brocker) work hard at Bond’s elliptical text.  A little too hard perhaps, as everything is taken at full pelt and cries out for a little light and shade.  

The psychological states of the playwright’s characters are usually difficult to discern and especially so here.  One can’t help feeling this is an acting out of ideas, as the trio’s thoughts and feelings rise and fall through a tense and climactic scenario.  

A young African man, an illegal immigrant, has broken into a woman’s house. She chooses to protect him and try to spirit him away to safety.  This is some 65 years into the future and the police have evolved into the army.  A people trafficker adds a menacing presence.  

The device of a dummy standing in for the black man (while the actor voices his contributions from afar) may look like a wilful conceit but allows a scene of some ferocity to take place, reminiscent of The Sea’s mad draper, as fabric flies in all directions.  

It’s as shocking and brutal as anything Bond’s written, an indication that his powers are far from waning.  

- Simon Thomas  


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