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You can’t stop the boats: Sorry We Didn’t Die At Sea @ParkTheatre

Sorry We Didn’t Die At Sea by Italian playwright Emanuele Aldrovandi and translated by Marco Young, has made a topical return to London at the Park Theatre after playing earlier this summer at the Seven Dials Playhouse. In a week when leaders and leaders in waiting were talking about illegal immigration, it seemed like a topical choice . It also has one hell of an evocative title. The piece opens with Adriano Celantano’s Prisencolinensinainciusol , which sets the scene for what we are about to see. After all, a song about communication barriers seems perfect for a play about people trafficking and illegal immigration. One side doesn’t understand why they happen, and the other still comes regardless of the latest government announcement / slogan .  However, the twist here is that the crossing is undertaken the other way. People are fleeing Europe instead of escaping war or poverty in Africa or the Middle East. It’s set sometime in the not-too-distant future. There is a crisis causing p

Trolling: A Very, Very, Very Dark Matter @_BridgeTheatre

Trolling, the art of making random, unfounded and controversial comments to provoke an immediate emotional reaction is the backbone of today’s social media. But in A Very, Very, Very Dark Matter, Martin McDonagh has decided to extend it to the theatre. Daring you to walk out in disgust with his twist on the lives of Charles Dickens and Hans Christian Andersen. He’s out to knock these men off their pedestals. Just in time for Christmas. But the show does what it says on the tin. Those who can stomach this grim stuff might walk away with something to think about. It’s having its world premiere at The Bridge Theatre.

The premise is that Hans Christian Andersen has been keeping a captured Pygmy woman he calls Marjory from the Congo in his attic. She writes his stories. He isn’t particularly talented in his own right. Hans as played by Jim Broadbent also comes across as a Jimmy Saville-like entertainer. With only a passing interest in humanity. Marjory‘s played by Johnetta Eula’Mae Ackles. She’s making her professional debut as the tough survivor and creative genius.

It turns out Marjory had a sister. Charles Dickens (Phil Daniels) kept her sister in his attic until she died half way through writing The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Dickens needed her as he didn’t have time to write as he was too busy banging broads.

And so begins a dark tale of exploitation, Belgian genocide and a little bit of revenge. Time moves back and forth. Ghosts of the past collude with the present. On one level it’s confusing and incoherent. On another level its relentlessly offensive. With foul language, casual racism and contempt for the world it’s as if McDonagh is saying the societies these noble writers represent are rotten to the core.

But even in this very very very dark tale there’s much beauty. Particularly in the strong performances and the beautiful production designed by Anna Fleischle. And towards the end there’s a hint of humanity between Andersen and Marjory. Maybe Martin McDonagh thinks there’s hope for the world afterall. Or at least during the festive season.

It won’t be for all tastes. I noted two walkouts on the night I saw it. But I suspect that’s the point. The world is no fairy tale. Directed by Matthew Dunster, A Very Very Very Dark Matter is at the Bridge Theatre until 6 January. Merry Christmas and God bless everyone.


Photos by Manuel Harlan

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