Home » Reviews » Off West End » The Hospital at the Time of the Revolution, Finborough Theatre

The Hospital at the Time of the Revolution, Finborough Theatre

Caryl Churchill
Directed by Jim Russell

★★★★

Pros: Very clever writing which manages to narrate bad actions by characters yet also depicts the reasoning without judgement.

Cons: A little too unremitting as an experience and some of the events feel unnecessary.

Our Verdict: A very insightful and intriguing play which stimulates interest in how human beings cope in times of war.

Courtesy of Finborough Theatre

The play is set during the Algerian War and we become the voyeurs of several moments in a psychiatric hospital. We visit several characters who are undergoing internal battles to make sense of the violent and turbulent events they are living through. Creating characters with these kinds of difficulties convincingly is certainly an accomplishment in itself. The message here seems to be that people are not natural killers, and that the body will find whatever escape it can to deal with gruesome circumstances, sometimes even manifesting in madness.

Another issue raised is how we view ourselves as objects. Many of these characters have built up identities around their roles in society – as a good mother, an Algerian patriot etc. When the demands of these chosen identities become difficult due to war, each character seems to cling even harder to the objectification of the self. This can be to the point where they are committing acts which violate their well-being.

This play is based on a book written by the psychiatrist and philosopher Frantz Fanon. Based on real experiences, the production follows interviews with several patients and the format of the play is a window into their journey. The style for most of the piece doesn’t follow a traditional beginning, middle and end, yet in the last bit, it seems the author has added a climax. The result is an event which doesn’t seem to serve much purpose.

The horror of these character’s stories is heightened with claustrophobically small staging and little use of movement. We also relate to a very silent character (Fanon the original author) who literally sits next to the audience. He’s the psychiatrist and I think we relate because there’s much to him we never hear about but we feel is under the surface. We desperately need him to be the ‘good guy’ to give us a sense of hope among these destructive and self-destructive human beings.

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

The Hospital at the Time of the Revolution runs at Finborough Theatre until 16th April 2013.
Box Office: 0844 847 1652 or book online at

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