reviews the spoils
C Venue, Edinburgh Festival August 2007
THE STAGE by Gerald Berkowitz
That men and women experience war differently is a truism, but the thrust of this new play by Steven Dykes and Paul Englishby is that our assumptions about those differences are almost certainly wrong.
A member of a conquering army interrogates four women who were mere secretaries in various ministries of the losing government. The man is enamoured of a piece of the defeated country’s classical music, and hopes this will create a bond with the women.
But it is soon apparent that he has sentimentalised the music, which has no special meaning for them, as much as he has the women, the war, and just about everything else he addresses. They, in contrast, are practical, matter of fact and generally disdainful of all men whose romantic visions disrupted and destroyed their neat and smooth running bureaucracies. Far from representing the softer sex, the women’s clear vision and impatience with male sentimentality exposes it for the destructive fantasy it is.
Though the script requires Clark Devlin’s interrogator to go on too long and too frequently in his romantic analysis of the music, the short, sharp shocks of his encounters with Laura Churchill, Rebecca Pollock, Polly Henson and Marina Burton carry the play’s chilling and corrective vision.
THE FRINGE REVIEW by JG
**** 4 Stars
This production comes to Edinburgh partly via Rose Bruford's Colleges Knowledge Transfer Funding Initiative which allows recent graduates the opportunity to produce their own professional work, and on the strength of this production is an initiative that deserves continued support.
Theatrically the production is sparse relying on 5 strong central performances from Laura Churchill, Rebecca Pollock, Polly Henson and Marina Burton as the secretaries, supported by Clark Devlin as the Interpreter.
As a new play the writing, characterisation and narrative are strong and the original music composed by Paul Englishby adds that extra frission. The real strength of this piece for me was it's accessibility - taking a subject matter that is as relevant today as it has been in the past. A regime kept in power by the utter blind belief in the system by its supporters - even when they understand that much of the system is just smoke and mirrors.
In the able hands of Steven Dykes who both wrote and directed the piece Shady Dolls Theatre Company have produced a production that can legitimately stand up against most of the professional new plays that are touring today.
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE by Louise Hill
*** 3 Stars
A young army official is given the lowly task of interrogating the low-ranking secretaries of a defeated regime. What can they possibly have to say of any significance, and what means will he use to prise secrets from women well-practised - of necessity - in the art of concealment and deception?
Steven Dykes' and Paul Englishby's collaboration has produced a strange dark tale of the public and private compromises and sacrifices of war, ably performed by the Shady Dolls' cast of five. At the moment, the performance gives the impression of meticulous direction from which the performances have not yet been liberated, and this is not helped by a slightly laboured central device which requires Clark Devlin's character to keep switching a tape on and off. However, if their London production of Homestead is anything to go by, director and cast should have it in them to pull off a more compelling performance as the festival progresses.