Monday, 23 July 2012

Tranquility, Serenity, Calm - review

Written by: Wendy (@Wendyfer1)

Waterloo East Theatre, London

Waterloo East Theatre both suffers and benefits from its location. It is mere seconds away from London’s main point of travel, but consequently must deal with the recurring rattles of trains over its head. The task of any show appearing there becomes to be engaging enough to make those interruptions insignificant, and the team behind Tranquility, Serenity, Calm can proudly say this has been achieved.

Welcome to the new world of absurdist farce, where a lack of established time, merging contexts and a sense of existential disorientation are combined with two men being extremely silly: cue the giggles. Civil servant Francis meets anarchist Peter Joe, Beta blockers meet bombs and political theatre for once takes a merry turn.

We stand in a time mesh of the ‘something must be done, but let’s go to the pub first’ anarchism of the 70s, the landslide victory of Blair surfing on 90s New Labour and the big society of the noughties, where Cameron sits on the top tier drinking the sweat of the working man from a champagne glass. Somewhere in the middle, Withnail and I must abandon dreams of their socialist utopia.

The script (Helen Banner) has clearly been well-developed and edited over time. Although the beginning is a slow warm-up, the pace never drops throughout the fifty minutes. When considering the fact that there are only two performers and few changes of scene, this feat becomes ever more impressive. Jimi Davson and William Uden are fearless actors and expertly balanced. They deserve credit simply for having no inhibitions and delivering with admirable conviction.

The humour is cleverly structured to set up the play for disaster. As Francis embarks on the political pitch of his career, the side-effects of his drugs brought to light earlier in the play return to the mind, followed by oddly satisfying dread. Other highlights include Peter Joe attempting to hide a bomb in Francis’s office to the soundtrack of the man himself belting out Jerusalem. Once again, credit for conviction is due.

The characters are thankfully not complete caricatures and do retain some subtlety.  ‘I’m useless at sorting other people out’, says the civil servant for the commission for civil contentment. Hohoho. Some of the politics itself feels left out, but what is clear is that the two characters are different yet the same. Both engage in partially blind political faith, but not entirely without sense. Together they create a cracking, ridiculous romp through attempts at progressive statecraft. If you are heading to Edinburgh in the next few weeks, spare an evening for Otio Productions. It will be an hour well spent. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A nice review. I'll keep a look out for them!