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The Fantasy Terrorist Variations, Baron’s Court Theatre

Written by Robert Crighton
★★★

Pros: A thought-provoking series of three plays which are interesting in terms of content and also written in an intense and engaging manner. Enthusiastic performances which really connect with the audience.

Cons: The subject matter, terrorism, is considerably weighty, yet the drama feels insubstantial, clichéd and a little flippant at times. There are several moments throughout when I feel the dialogue runs uncomfortably close to the bone.

Our Verdict: The interesting concepts, solid performances and engaging writing style are good reasons to catch this performance alongside Ghost Storytellers.

The Fantasy Terrorist Variations run at the Baron’s Court Theatre alongside Ghost Storyteller (read our review of that one here).

Courtesy of Milk Bottle Productions

This series of three plays is anchored to the theme of terrorism and what it means in today’s society. The first play deals with a person who has been detained on suspicion of terrorism, and his experience in detention. We are led to feel a lot of empathy for the character who is naive, confused and weak. This is a contrast against his interrogator, both parts played by Keith Hill. Whilst the subject matter is a serious one I just wasn’t convinced by either the characters or the scenario. It feels too flippant to be an actual recollection of being detained under the Terrorism Act; there was not enough urgency to the detainee’s responses, and the interrogator was a little clichéd.

The next play is a keynote address, recounting the tale of a man from an underprivileged background, who generates an opportunity to make money out of compensation for wrongful detention, and goes on to be a knight entrepreneur. This is clearly a well-researched piece and the character, played by Simon Nader, is credible both in the story and the delivery. My concern here is that the play cuts rather too close to the bone in terms of intolerance. This may be an intentional nuance of the character portrayal, however it made me feel uncomfortable nonetheless. The concept explored is very interesting though, and the performance given by Nader is very good.

The third and final play involves a successful artist and his agent discussing the artist’s plans for a work based on a representation of Mohamed. Nader plays the artist with considerable plausibility, challenging and pushing boundaries with his art. Hill plays the agent credibly and the dialogue between them is energetic and well-paced. Again however, I found myself feeling uncomfortable in places. I enjoyed this piece though, particularly the phenomenological aspects of the art being discussed, how it relates conceptually to religion and whether it could induce ‘terrorist’ responses. It was a strong finish to the trilogy.

The concepts explored in these three plays are intelligent, interesting and thought-provoking, and Crighton definitely gets his point across in all aspects of this work. They look at three very different aspects of terrorism and how it affects the way we think, behave, feel and react to the world we live in. Crighton writes very well and I have come away with several different points of view that I had not considered before. Whilst there are some issues with the level of gravitas given to the subjects and some uncomfortable tones, this is certainly worth a look, particularly if you are planning dinner in the pub upstairs. I thought seeing both this production and the Ghost Storyteller in the same evening made it a little long, but both are enjoyable for different reasons, so take your pick, or see them both!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

The Fantasy Terrorist Variations run at the Baron’s Court Theatre until 5th January 2013.
Box Office: 0844 8700 887 or book online at http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/27065

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