Image: Tristan Bates Theatre
Voice of Nancy Babic: Alice Spisa
A taut two-hander that will generate long discussions and food for thought.
In a dystopian near future, two men face each other across a table.
A bomb has been dropped on purpose on the motherland's civilian population.
Everyone has reasons, even the cruellest of plans can be defended.
In an era of fake news and dystopic visions becoming everyday occurrences, the two men sitting at the table seem to be very distant in their arguments and ideologies, but their shifting convergence will bring a deflagration, like bringing matter in contact with dark matter.
I suspect that this play by Lorenzo De Liberato is intended to be deliberately provocative, to force discussion and argument rather than providing a definitive perspective or an unequivocal statement of the author's viewpoint.
Whether or not it is intentionally designed that way, it nevertheless succeeds on several levels.
But sometimes the environment that the play inhabits jars with logic and that occasionally distracts from the larger issues this drama throws-up.
Echoes is set in an unknown country at an unknown time.
Areas of the country we find ourselves in are designated as "districts" which sounds like the common device to separate the present day from some future time, or simply to remove us from the society we know.
We don't seem to find ourselves too far in the future, though, because the big weapons are still nuclear bombs and that lends the feel of a time nearer the present rather than hundreds of years or millennia into the future.
Anyway, society is suffering from the extreme effects of climate change and, as we meet the two protagonists in this piece, we find one of them - a reporter - amazed that the other - the master, as his computer calls him - can grow all manner of fruit and has water too in his bunker.
Availability of clean air and water, and the opportunity to grow food in the above-ground world the journalist lives in seems to be long-gone - though we never get to know how people are managing to survive without the essential basics of life: clean air and water.
The reporter has come to to conduct an interview and as the conversation develops, we hear about an economic crisis sitting alongside the climate crisis and of rebel groups fighting against the power structures of the society instigated by an imbalance between the wealthy and the poor.
We don't get to know who 'the master' actually is, ie whether he's an elected politician or some maniacal billionaire who has managed to get his paws on some bombs.
Whatever the case, he's just unleashed some warheads on a district, leaving more than a million dead.
As the conversation develops, we find the two men polarised on almost every matter they discuss.
And the numerous topics range over poverty, wealth, power and god to name a few.
Paride Donatelli's strikingly effective lighting design sets a suitably edgy ambience for a simple setting that comprises just two chairs at each end of a rather long table.
The latter offers just a little too much temptation for the demonstration of anger or exasperation since it gets thumped rather too regularly in the latter stages of the piece.
And it's in that latter segment of what is undoubtedly a tense and nuanced two-hander that we are confronted with an extra dimension as the connection between the two men is revealed.
That didn't seem to be wholly necessary since the preceding elements had provided considerable food for thought and allowed for other connected avenues to be explored.
What it did do was to leave me confused about the play's real motives and wondering whether Echoes is (in spite of its apparent complexity) simply a play about people being two sides of the same coin, taking different paths to reach the same conclusion.
Even so, the play proves immensely compelling thanks to two well-crafted and convincing performances from Marco Quaglia as the possibly unhinged 'master' who apparently cares little for human life, and Stefano Patti as the seemingly more humanitarian journalist.
And there's enough meat on the dramatic bone here to provide discussion and argument long after the curtain has descended, which makes it well-worth seeing in spite of my picky reservations.
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ActDrop listing for Tristan Bates Theatre
Our show listing for Echoes
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