Pompeii

Tue 18th – Sat 22nd February 2014

reviews

Charlotte Furniss-Roe

at 04:03 on 19th Feb 2014

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A slow burning but also thought provoking play – while there were many thoughtful and creative moments that showed great potential, this was inconsistent, with some scenes feeling unfocused and less well executed.

This play depicts the last hour on earth as a microcosm of humanity, with each character battling in their own way to come to terms with the rest of their life being scaled down to such as short space of time. The humanity of it is such that you find yourself sympathising with the religious, the non-religious, the hopeful and the despairing.

The play began fluidly and the whole room was well lit, and the lack of complicated staging and costume fitted the natural setting. These aspects of the production served well to create a complicity with the audience, necessary for a play that seems to pose questions and encourage you to think about what you would do in such a predicament. This was also highlighted by the conversational nature of the play in general, in that the audience almost felt part of it, which was only helped by the size of the venue, so much so that my hands jerked to clap when the actors were applauding.

The overall quality of the production was fairly inconsistent. Although violence would not be stylised in a production such as this, the early fight scene came over crowded and messy onstage, and in the louder parts of the play I felt that any emotion in the lines was overpowered by the sheer volume, which seemed unnecessary in such a small space. Mumbled and faltering delivery did also ruin the odd line, but this seemed to be due more to opening night nerves.

Having said this, many parts of the quieter, calmer scenes worked a lot better. The cast worked together well in conversation, and the on stage chemistry between Ben Spiro's Jamie and Johanna Ohlman's Kat deserves special mention for being everything it should have been – awkwardly, embarrassingly, and endearingly human. Moreover, the fact that this show manages to make the audience laugh despite the incredibly depressing apocalyptic theme is a great feat, such as wanting there to be a heaven just to say 'I told you so'. However, Alex Thompson's reading of the poem/prayer was, for me, the highlight of the play. Beautiful and simple, this cosmogony and apocalyptic tale of everything we've ever been and known in honest poetry was a credit to the author.

Despite being slow to get started and the production being rough in places, overall it was an impressive and, ultimately, terrifyingly human piece of writing by Eli Keren.

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