Theatre Reviews

Review: Penetrator by Fear No Colours

penetrator
Tom White (left) as Tadge and Chris Duffy (right) as Max

Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)

Play: Penetrator

Playwright: Anthony Neilson

Director: Julia Midtgard

Company: Fear No Colours

Genre: Thriller

Venue: C-cubed, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Performance Date: 10 Aug. 2017

Summary: “Flatmates Max and Alan are happily nursing their hangovers when their old friend Tadge arrives on their door, AWOL from the army and just in time to upset the delicate balance of chill nothings. Something happened to him in the Black Room, where the Penetrators are, something too terrible to speak of. So it must be shown.” (Source: fearnocolours.com)

Content Warnings: simulated sex, masturbation, explicit language, violence, descriptions of rape.


My thoughts

Penetrator is not for the light-hearted and neither was the Fear No Colours’ production. The play literally opens in darkness and gradually, reality begins to blur for the three characters. The shift in atmosphere commences with the entrance of Tadge, portrayed by Tom White, who is evidently disturbed by a series of events. White’s restless character was intriguing to watch, even when he was not speaking. You could see the cogs turning in Tadge’s mind which reflected on his face. Despite seeing his face, White’s character was unpredictable, which made his performance intense and thoroughly captivating.

The shift in atmosphere commences with the entrance of Tadge, portrayed by Tom White, who is evidently disturbed by a series of events. White’s restless character was intriguing to watch, even when he was not speaking. You could see the cogs turning in Tadge’s mind which reflected on his face. Despite seeing his face, White’s character was unpredictable, which made his performance intense and thoroughly captivating.

Unlike Tadge, Max hides a lot behind his dark humour and seemingly apathetic attitude. At the start of the play, Max comes across lazy, much to the annoyance of his flatmate, Alan. Some of Max’s misogynistic and abhorrent beliefs were delivered with acidic truth by Chris Duffy.  The final scenes of Penetrator are where Duffy shines, or rather, where Max is at his darkest.

However, Matt Roberts’ performance was the weakest of the three. I felt that Roberts’ expressions were annoyingly exaggerated throughout the play, in particular during the eye contact with Tadge. In general, I think the whole cast needs to project and articulate much more as some of the lines/impersonations were lost amongst mumbling, shouting, and laughter.

Why did I attend this play?

In-Yer-Face plays are not often performed due to their explicit and uncomfortable content, so it was a must.

Would I attend another Fear No Colours production?

The company regularly tackles difficult issues, so absolutely, I like being challenged.

Overall…

If you enjoy challenging, visceral theatre, then this is for you. The play is being extended at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe according to the Fear No Colour’s Twitter, so make sure to follow them to keep updated.

– Melissa Jennings


What challenging plays have you seen at the Fringe?

Let me know!

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Literature Reviews

Review: The Theban Plays by Sophocles

theban plays

Rating: ★★★★☆

Title: The Theban Plays (Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus)

Playwright: Sophocles

Genre: Greek Tragedy

Publication Date: c. 441 BC*

Publisher: Unknown**

Where to buy: The Theban Plays

Summary: King Oedipus is cursed and unknowingly commits atrocities. The consequences of his actions shape his legacy.

Trigger Warnings: death, threat, abuse, suicide, violence, gore imagery.

*The plays were among a few plays that survived.


A cruel fate

Set in Ancient Greece, Oedipus and Antigone, father and daughter, contend with fate. On a side note, although Antigone was first produced by the tragedian, Sophocles, the events in Antigone are without a doubt the fatal consequences of the actions of Oedipus (in Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus) or rather, the Greek deities.

The most compelling play out of the trilogy was Antigone, as its eponymous protagonist defies a powerful male character despite fate looming over her.

ANTIGONE:

These laws – I was not about to break them,

not out of fear of some man’s wounded pride,

and face the retribution of the gods.

(Line 509 – 510, p.82)

About five years ago, I read Antigone for the first time and I loved Antigone’s fiery character, however, upon reading the other plays in the trilogy, I would not class Antigone as a feminist play, as her intentions are not about herself. I think it would be accurate to say that Antigone’s voice is incredibly powerful, more than her actions, as she wishes to tear down the laws her uncle has made. Having heard excerpts of the play performed several times, Antigone’s voice is the one that stays with you. So the question is: does Antigone fight for herself or for others? I would say both.

So, how did Antigone come to be? The Leader in Antigone notes the “wild” similarity between Antigone and her father, Oedipus. In terms of events, Oedipus the King (also known as Oedipus Rex) is the first in the trilogy and subsequently,  Oedipus at Colonus, then lastly, Antigone. The events which arise in Oedipus the King were truly horrifying to read. I was vaguely aware of a psychological term, Oedipus complex (don’t look up until you’ve read the play), but I could not believe what I was reading. For the sake of spoilers, I won’t disclose what happens, but be prepared for some ugly truths.

What disturbed me most was the idea that you cannot control your fate; it is literally in the hands of the Greek deities. The question that kept appearing, for me, was why? Why did Oedipus have to go through those particular series of events? Why did his daughter, Antigone, meet a similar fate? Were the Greek deities just using Oedipus as a demonstration of their power? I ultimately feel sorry for Oedipus as he truly doesn’t deserve what happens to him.

SOPHOCLES, WHY DID YOU WRITE ABOUT “YOU KNOW WHAT”?

If you’ve read it or had it spoiled for you (like it was for me), you know what I’m talking about. The issue that I am talking about is of major significance so it won’t be named here. What confuses me most about this issue is that it was prophesied, meaning that the deities planned for this to happen. WHY?! This is why I can only rate the trilogy 4 stars as I simply find the social issue horrifying.

Why did I read it?

I wanted to re-read Antigone and I thought, why not the whole trilogy?!

Does the playwright have other works?

Sophocles wrote several plays, such as Electra, Ajax, and Philoctetes.

Overall…

The play exemplifies what a tragedy is, a fatal fall from grace.

– Melissa Jennings

Literature Reviews

Play Review: The Romans in Britain

 

the romans in britain.png

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Play: The Romans in Britain

Playwright: Howard Brenton

Genre: Historical

Publication Date: 1 Jun. 1988

Publisher: Methuen

Where to buy: The Romans in Britain

Summary: “The Romans in Britain contrasts Julius Caesar’s Roman invasion of Celtic Britain with the Saxon invasion of Romano-Celtic Britain, and finally Britain’s involvement in Northern Ireland during The Troubles of the late twentieth century.” (Source: Amazon)

Trigger Warnings: violence, rape, war, death.

Interesting contrast, but horrendous to read

It is certainly a play that I will not read again, but I may see it as it may make more sense onstage.

Brenton’s play draws on the concept that humanity has not changed over the course of history. I believe the intention of Brenton’s drama is to insinuate that although these specific events appear quite different from each other, they all are built on the same foundation of fear.

There is one particular scene which was rather controversial at the time (1980s) concerning sexual violence. It is overall a rather violent play which draws on colonialism. I think it is important to remember that theatre is about the expression of the times. Despite this, I struggled to read the play due to the amount of tension produced from the play’s content.

Why did I read it?

It was required university reading for my Theatre course.

Does the playwright have other works?

Howard Brenton has written several plays, such as Pravda, Bloody Poetry, and In Extremis.

Overall…

I did not enjoy reading it at times due to its xenophobic content, however, I would like to see the visual contrast of history onstage one day.

– Melissa Jennings