Shoreditch Town Hall doesn’t seem the obvious place to go to see a play (beautiful as it is) – much less a mash-up of five of Harold Pinter’s political sketches…but the production is very site-specific and therefore works in a rather disturbing way.
I have to admit, I know OF Pinter, but don’t think I have ever actually seen a Pinter play as I didn’t believe they would be very accessible. I am always happy to have my mind changed though – and this was a perfect opportunity.
Hydrocracker present this political Pinter mash-up as a promenade production. The short plays / sketches portrayed are: One for the Road, The New World Order, Precisely, Mountain Language and Press Conference.
When we went into the building, black uniformed, dark-glasses wearing, weapon and radio wielding ‘security guards’ checked us out, processed us and handed us security passes (known as our ‘papers’ throughout this immersive experience).
We were then herded into a gorgeous bright, elegant room by spin doctors (together with ‘members of the press’) for a press conference with the newly appointed Minister for Cultural Integrity. all seemed quite jolly until at least, ooo, 5 minutes in where the enigmatic but rather scary minister (superbly played by Hugh Ross) informed us that it was perfectly normal in the cleansing of society for the children of difficult families to be killed and for women to be raped by the police / military. So – not quite a sbright and shiny as we first expected.
The next scene (One for the Road) was acted out in a rather claustraphobic but opulent office, where the Minister interrogates an intellectual prisoner who has obviously been beaten up by the guards. we were actually sitting at the table, and there were parts where I simply wasn’t sure where to look – and yet it all worked to make the situation feel more ‘real’.
Following this, the mood darkened, and we were separated from the people that we had arrived we (passes cunningly given out to pairs with A or B on them on arrival!) and taken down into the dark, threatening bowels of the building – where random shouts and sound effects and hammering could be heard echoing around. I was actually peeled off by one ‘security guard’ at one point with just 2 other people and a black clad ‘Moutain Woman’ actress and taken to a far-flung corner where she wouldn’t be quiet and was eventually dragged off screaming.
All spooky stuff.
We see the prisoner from before (movingly played by Richard Hahlo) meeting with his mother, and then again in a very disturbing scene where he is about to be tortured – this scene is fantastically acted out by the two prison guards. Everything is worryingly believable!
We see another scene / play acted out by the Minister and the prisoner’s wife, and then there is a final scene before we are thrown out of the building – no opportunity to applaud the cast, and without any knowledge of where we are (a little like when we saw Black Diamond Part 2).
Luckily, once we found our bearings, we found a lovely little Vietnamese restaurant called Huong Cafe and had a lovely meal before heading home.
The play was superb and the acting amazing – the five pieces had been stitched together believably and they really made use of the space within the building. I love immersive theatre, and this really worked as an experience. I would thoroughly recommend it!