Cargo, Arcola Theatre, review: ‘too familiar a concept for a powerful story’
- Credit: Photo by Mark Douet
Berry-Hart’s contribution to the genre is to set her scenario in a violent, filthy dystopian future. The results are hit and miss.
When The Container made waves in Edinburgh in 2007, the concept of creating a site-specific piece with the audience locked into a lorry container like refugees was novel and shocking.
In Tess Berry-Hart’s new play Cargo at the Arcola Studio, when the weighty doors of Max Dorey’s admirably claustrophobic shipping container set clang shut, plunging the audience into total darkness, we are again meant to feel the realities of being human cargo.
But for all its power the concept is now too familiar. Berry-Hart’s contribution to the genre is to set her scenario in a violent, filthy dystopian future. The results are hit and miss.
The characters are fleeing a civil war in England being won by Christian fundamentalists.
You may also want to watch:
Blasphemy entails the death penalty, women have no rights and gays are stoned.
Topical references are spot-on – there’s a new Hadrian’s wall that’s been built.
- 1 Man killed in 'shooting' in north London
- 2 Appeal to find four children missing from north London with father and grandmother
- 3 Man killed and two injured in triple shooting
- 4 Letters on People Friendly Streets in St Peter's
- 5 Man jailed for rape of young girl in north London 40 years ago
- 6 Islington kids are being 'drawn into county lines drug smuggling'
- 7 Helen Anderson: Finsbury Park murder victim's father pays tribute to his daughter
- 8 Kacem Mokrane: Islington man amongst seven charged with 2017 murder
- 9 Why Arsenal's Leah Williamson is perfect England captain?
- 10 Stop the Burn: Protest planned against Edmonton incinerator rebuild
After the grim introductory blackness, a pool of light finds two adolescents as they turn on their mobile torches.
Streetwise Joey [Milly Thomas] and her naïve, chatty younger brother Iz [Jack Gouldbourne] discover wired Sarah [Debbie Korley] hiding amongst some crates.
Despite mutual suspicion, survival necessitates conversation and some facts are revealed.
Sarah was a rebel fighter who bought a fake passport and paid for her passage; Joey and Iz are gypsies on the run after Iz was caught spying on bathing women.
When shifty Kayffe [John Schwab] bursts into the mix, tension quickly escalates: his game of 20 questions results in deadly secrets surfacing.
Director David Mercatali coaxes some fine performances from the actors despite weak riffs in the writing: attempts at flights of fancy are rather florid.
It runs at a compact 80 minutes yet the dialogue is overloaded with political exposition. And the frenetic fumbling over a flick-knife could have more urgency.
Avoid the front container box seats if you’re claustrophobic.
Rating: 3/5 stars