Review: The Sword of Alex
Image: White Bear Theatre
Calantha - Kate Terence
Gina - Georgia Winters
Antonio - Patrick Regis
Karl - DK Ugonna
You'd never defeat me in politics, not in the politics of left and right.
But it's a hell of a lot easier to get people to fight over identity than it is over ideas.
Isn't that right?
A country on the verge of civil war as a region attempts to break away from the state.
Two versions of nationalism clash head-on.
Two leaders and their nations pitted against each other.
Each must destroy the other's version of history.
But families are no less tribal than nations.
As the great games are played out at national level, so too are domestic power struggles.
This is a play that brings together national destiny, gender politics and the very ideas of identity and belonging.
Come back in ten years. Or twenty. Or when you're dead.
That's always a good time to be forgiven.
I think it's called a pardon.
I've seen a few shows recently which have opted to bookend the beginning and ending with similar scenes or actions.
I'm not sure if it is anything approaching a trend, but here's another that does likewise.
It's a four-hander with an equal gender split among the cast that contrasts power politics at a national level with struggles in the confines of intimate personal relationships.
At the beginning, we find Kate Terence's Calantha in hospital talking to her (ex) lover Antonio (Patrick Regis) and we end-up at the same location.
However, we don't get to know too much about what's going on between Antonio and Calantha in the initial scene, and we swiftly change tack to a meeting between two politicians - Antonio again, who is president of his country, and Karl (DK Ugonna) who is leader of a break-away region which seeks independence.
There seems to have been considerable bloodshed in a civil war which has now been brought to a temporary halt through a ceasefire.
Now it's time for the two leaders to talk and perhaps construct peace.
As we're learning clearly from the Brexit talks, political negotiations are tough and cover wide-ranging issues where nothing is as simple as it seems.
That applies here in spades too with each party advocating reasons why a deal should or should not be struck.
The format for the piece overall is that scenes ping-pong back and forth between the central political negotiations, and scenes between each leader and his female partner.
Well, in Calantha and Antonio's case it's a question of of ex-partners, at least for the former.
Much of the political discussion gets rather bogged-down in historical issues and the rantings of an over-bearing president who seems to hold all the cards yet ultimately (and somewhat strangely) caves in to his counterpart's demands.
But Rib Davis's writing is at its scathing best in Calantha's dialogue and Kate Terence doesn't miss the opportunity to deliver a compelling and forceful performance.
Patrick Regis's Antonio is a violent, manipulative bully, used to being top-dog and getting his own way.
Calantha, though, is more than a match even if she has to suffer for it in a shockingly violent and rather unexpected attack by Antonio.
The relationship between Karl and Georgia Winters' Gina is more problematic, at least at the beginning.
The atmosphere between these two is strained early on, though the reasons for it are not entirely clear.
Karl is certainly domineering, treating his (initially) mousey partner - recently delivered of a child - as something of a household accessory, just on hand to serve-up food and look after their child.
But Georgia Winters also makes a stand and a well-described, tearful transition, even if her ultimate decisions don't allow her to make an entirely clean break from Karl.
The Sword of Alex presents an interesting concept in contrasting the characteristics of male politicians in their public leadership roles and their private lives.
But it's also something of a mixed bag.
Even with some explosive outbursts, the political negotiations are rather meandering and less intriguing than the scenes with the female characters who provide the real dramatic interest in the piece.
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