Friday, 11 January 2013

So Great a Crime - review

Written by: Peeny (@AdamPeeny)

Where's Peen been?
Finborough Theatre, London
Was Peen keen?

David Gooderson has written and directed a play that’s really very blasé. Where we enter expecting a strong, healthy performance, the should-be-super cast lets us down. But they’re not alone, because the play itself has its flaws too; at its worst, this is like Grandad telling a story that you force yourself to listen to.

Taking us back to 1901, So Great a Crime tells the story of “Fighting Mac” – Sir Hector Macdonald – and his rise to fame as the son of a Scottish heroic crofter: he rises through the ranks of the British Army to become Queen Victoria’s favourite. Only then does he arrive in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) to be cast aside by the residents; allegations arise and he is forced to return home.

With a set design (Alex Marker) that offers very little to both the production and the audience, this already somewhat grey play doesn’t seem worthy of our attention. The whole thing screams for much more oomph, and seems incredibly reminiscent of an embarrassingly amateur ‘oldies’ play done at a school to raise money for charity, or something of the sort. With so many stumbles over dialogue, at least on the night that I went, they actually started to become expected by the second half – which notably, is thankfully much shorter than the first. Most characters are totally one dimensional, with Hugh Phipps (Philip York) emphasising every other word in the strangest of places; it starts to become unclear what’s even being said. Hector Macdonald (Stuart McGugan) shines most in command of the Army, which takes up little more than five minutes of the two-hour production.

It’s such a shame, because with some experimentation, there’s certainly a way that this play could be played fantastically. It needs more youth, a massive kick up the backside and a load less stereotypes. Moments such as the singing of the hymns seem particularly farcical, but as they stand, are completely wasted. With speculation of Savile still in the media, this not homosexual play that touches on Fighting Mac being rumoured to liaise with young boys should be much more relevant than this production makes it. The audience are left with very little to think about, with every avenue for discussion or intrigue closed off by the playwright’s lack of inquest in to the truth behind the rumours in his own play, nicely placing the extra cherry of boredom on top of a disappointing cake. 

This production runs until 22 January 2013. 

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