war war brand war

Tue 18th – Sat 22nd November 2014

reviews

Joe Jukes

at 09:33 on 19th Nov 2014

0agrees

0disagrees

As its title may suggest, war war brand war is a play about marketing conflict. It's a take on our consumerist society and the power of branding today matched poignantly against the unpalatable theme of war. The play does well to dehumanise and caricature corporate marketing teams, and the consequences such successful branding can have on the humans behind the façade of advertising and buzzwords. The trouble was that I only managed to realise this in the penultimate scene.

Whether it was my lack of classical knowledge of Aeschylus, my misinterpretation of the vague play synopsis, or the actual construction of the play itself, war war brand war lacked clarity from start to finish. No information was established in the first scenes, and a jumbled scene order left the audience in the dark, while the set was haphazardly and slowly moved around in transitions under blackout. Of course, ambiguity can be a good thing. The audience was swept along in the fast-paced scenes, and in doing so came to be blinded with the focus on marketing and branding that disguised the approaching ‘intervention’. It’s just that this was unsuccessful. The complete lack of a clear plot and character relations up to the last quarter of the play kept the audience at a distance. It was impossible to be sucked into a story which was constantly being questioned and examined in order to get a foothold in the plot.

I do worry that criticism of the way a play is constructed can often fall flat due to being a criticism of the text. However, neither direction nor acting in this instance sufficed to communicate information from stage to audience. I could not pinpoint a family in the cast until very late on in the play.This was all too apparent in the awkward silence at the end of the play as the conclusion came all too suddenly, passing the audience by entirely.

This is not to say that acting was poor. On the contrary, the ensemble displayed their collective talent and there was not a weak performance to be seen. Indeed, the actors lifted the play from slow and clumsy scene changes to the fast-paced and genuinely exciting performance war war proved itself to be. The play was defined by dynamic duos, in particular the first scene performed by Rebecca Thomas and Rebecca Cusack, which kicked off the show with bang. Throughout, Rebecca Hare and Kate Little showed us true chemistry, making a mockery of the establishments they represented, the latter actress being a standout cast member in the role of Alice.

I feel, however, that the brilliant acting onstage was lost to the technical aspects of the play. As mentioned, the pace and energy with which the actors took to the stage was lost in every scene transition in blackouts and a seemingly unpractised movement of the boxes, as interesting as their many configurations were in creating the various scenes. The cast’s faces were repeatedly obscured when standing too close to the projections, which themselves were a novel idea but would always shift attention away from the actors. I found myself unintentionally missing whole sentences of dialogue from watching a .gif cycle round and round on the Corpus walls, even finding myself dizzy at some points, unable to concentrate on the already overly ambiguous plot.

The play, for all its shortcomings matched the Playroom nicely. war war brand war was visually exciting, the soundtrack was great and the whole play had a distinctly experimental feel which provided a refreshing new perspective one can expect from a Corpus Lateshow. It was visually entertaining and acting was of a consistently high calibre. The show as a whole however was a jarring and jumbled mixture of scenes with a distinctly defective relationship with the audience, embodied by one instance of an awkward and unnecessary bout of vomiting. Credit must go to the cast for making the most of a play which provided them with so little, creating for the audience something aesthetically strong but unfortunately lacking in value.

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