Review: The Open
Photo by Kit Dambite
Tom Blake - Patrick
Priyank Morjaria - Arthur
Heidi Niemi - Jana
Emma Austin - Bella
Arthur, an obsessive jobsworth, and Patrick, a depressed romantic, are stranded on the GBGC (Great British Golf Course), owned by Donald Trump.
Unsure of their purpose and battling tedium Jana, an immigrant rebel crashes into their world.
Will she be the key to their survival or the catalyst of their downfall?
Set in 2050's Britain, national identity, human rights and the endurance of love are pushed to the limit in this post Brexit dystopian thriller.
A gripping new play about who owns the land, who closes the borders and how do we remember who we are in order to fight back?
The extraordinary political times that we are currently living through offer few pointers about just where post-Brexit Britain might ultimately end up in terms of its position on the world stage.
There are some who certainly view the future as swapping one kind of 'vassalage' (to use a term we've heard about Britain's relationship with the EU) for another one where we become the vassal state of America.
That notion seems to have played an important role in the development of this play.
But writer Florence Bell has taken 'vassalage' to an extreme conclusion and changed its nature fundamentally too.
For the basic proposition here is that, by the middle of this century, Britain has been acquired by an 'organisation' (for which read Trump Organisation) which has turned our 'green and pleasant land' into a huge golf course.
Or, perhaps, this is not one course but several, or possibly one course with many enormous 'holes' - the play doesn't make explicit just what it means by the term the 'Great British Golf Course'.
Whatever the case, it is hard to contemplate just how this incredible project might have been completed given its monumental scale.
Practicalities, however, shouldn't bother us too much in either drama or comedy, but what is more irritating is that the world we find ourselves in here is ill-defined with numerous confusing loose ends.
And its true purpose seems more unsettling than the mere establishment of a resort for relaxation and diversion, though we're never given concrete reasons for this.
In cases of absurdist or largely comic vehicles, we could brush aside any disbelief, but the intention here seems entirely sober and seriously earnest rather than offering us much in the way of laughter.
Now the basic notion that an organisation could take over an entire country for recreational pursuits has potential merit - the germ of an interesting idea.
It turns out, however, not to be unique.
Singer-songwriter Randy Newman offered a similar proposal described in his song Political Science which appeared on his 1972 album 'Sail Away'.
Mr Newman's lyrics suggested that America might drop nuclear bombs on unfriendly or uncooperative nations, but saving Australia to create an 'all American amusement park' (and avoid killing kangaroos too).
That prior offering doesn't, of course, render the idea completely out of bounds for further consideration or dramatic exploitation.
But writer Florence Bell needed to find a novel and engaging approach to navigate us through her plot to provide entertainment value as well as some thought-provoking political messages.
Satyrical humour matching the absurdity of the basic concept could have been the ideal means to achieve that goal.
However, the writer (also directing her own work here) eschews that possibility, opting instead for a more seriously slanted narrative that largely focuses on an oddly described romantic entanglement between two of the Great British Golf Course's workers, and ending up in what seems to be a detention centre.
The Open's intention may simply be to warn us about the potentially terrifying prospects for a post-Brexit Britain.
However, the story detail leaves much unexplained and/or confusing, and the dialogue and characters provide little in the way of anything to instil fear or even dramatic intensity.
And the overall impression is a mash-up of topical elements - e.g. the well-worn Trump angle and the even more well-worn Brexit card - combined in an oddly constructed drama that misfires and underwhelms.
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ActDrop listing for The Space
Our show listing for The Open
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