Sunday, 6 May 2018

REVIEW: Building the Wall at the Park Theatre

The projection above the glass cell tells us it is 22nd November 2019 and a white man in an orange jump suit with El Paso across the back is waiting for a visitor. It is the near future but why is this man here and what has he done? When Gloria , an intelligent black Professor of History enters , Rick says " they don't want me to kill myself so they can kill me", suggesting he is waiting a sentence of death for something he has done. Gloria hints at the events that have occurred when she explains "Every landslide begins with a single rock suddenly in motion". And so begins this incredibly powerful tense political drama as the interview gradually unpicks the events that have occurred from June 2018 onwards in America. 

Robert Schenkkan's brilliant new play takes real events in recent history - Iraq war, Trump's election campaign, and the bombings in Boston and Oklahoma - with world events from twentieth century in Germany and Argentina as a springboard to project forward a frightening scenario of how events in US could spiral out of control in a very short space of time.

Is Rick the racist catalyst at the centre of these events or an ordinary person who becomes a helpless cog in a regime that he initially supports? Trevor White is spellbinding as Rick, creating moments of tension reacting to noises off stage, eating a tangerine or beckoning to Gloria to come closer. At times it was like watching Anthony Hopkins in "Silence of the lambs" goading Jodie Foster. The glass cage of the interview room is used to great effect as Gloria and Rick circle round, always facing each other, like boxers in a ring. The movement choreography in the confined space by director Jez Bond and movement director Natasha Harrison is wonderful.

Gloria played by Angela Griffen is his inquisitor, at times challenging him and at times threatened or uncertain. She has pre-conceived ideas of his racism but gradually coaxes out of him the events that have shaped his life and lead him to his present situation.

The sound design by Tim Holloway makes it feel like we are listening to her recording of the interview and when she switches off the recorder we see them talking without hearing their words. It is a very effective devise to add to the overall atmosphere and tension. 

The drama spins along with revelation after revelation so quickly that you don't
have time to reflect how likely it would be that the described events escalation could occur today or how likely events could be kept quiet for so long in the days of social media. In the end it seems an extreme scenario but the underlying anti Trump message seems clear and reminds us, as if we need reminding, of the divisive nature of his, and other western leaders, rhetoric. 

The result is a dramatic thought provoking and highly entertaining drama which is wonderfully and convincingly acted by White and Griffen.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: C in stalls | Price of Ticket: £20
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