The Arts Theatre’s new production tries hard to be a blackly comic commentary on post-terrorist surveillance culture, but only manages to succeed in small bursts.
Set in the near future after a ‘Second Big Attack’, a suburban couple take part in a new programme in which a convicted criminal is incarcerated in their front room. Leonard Roberts as Kyle, trapped upstage, is highly effective in dominating proceedings, while James Flynn and Samantha Wright flitter and twitter in front of him. Indeed, it is Roberts’ deadpan, imposing stature that just about manages to save the play, finding wit and eliding over plot holes in a script that has too little of the former and far too many of the latter.
After a lacklustre first act, things pick up dramatically post-interval when the couple realise that they are not harbouring a petty thief, as they thought, but a convicted murderer – and must administer a death sentence by lethal injection. With each of Kyle’s guards struggling with their conscience, and wondering whether his protestations of innocence are genuine, the cracks in their relationship begin to show. While the paths the characters take is not hard to predict for the audience, Samantha Wright at least manages to elicit some depth and sincerity to a character which could easily have become a cipher.
All is thrown away again, though, before the play reaches its end. A revelation that the video cameras are not being monitored, after all, both creates another yawning plot hole and drives a body blow to any comment the play may have to say about contemporary surveillance culture. Like the denouement of the play itself, this is a fatal blow, administered in such a clumsy way that it undoes all that has gone before.
Reviewed for The Stage