Pros: Four varied and engaging pieces revolving around the theme of the unexplained, performed with verve by an energetic cast.
Cons: Inconsistencies in the script and the order of the plays lessened the impact of the subject matter.
Classified consists of four new plays written by five writers under thirty years old, each concentrating on the theme of the unexplained and taking true events as their basis. We get a quadruple helping of the strange-but-true, all with engaging and diverse narratives that leave us with that feeling the the more we know, the less we understand.
Presented first was a piece called Hinterkaifeck, based on six murders that occurred in a German hamlet in 1922. The mystery revolves around some strange footprints in the snow going towards the Gruber family’s farm but not back. A week later the whole family was found dead. The play switches between the Gruber’s increasing paranoia at the odd events and a busybody inhabitant of the village being interviewed by a detective after the discovery of the bodies. The interplay between the two provided a great dynamic and allowed for the mystery to be explained within the story itself to good effect. It had the unsettling feeling of a small town thriller, but did seem to lag at times and didn’t really have time to develop before it abruptly ended.
The second piece was a one-hander chronicling the life of an unidentified man found dead in 2009 on the coast of Ireland. Lawrence Boothman puts on a very energetic performance as the unknown man preparing for his final moments. He relays the tragic story with a pleasing innocence and hopefulness allowing the comic moments to resonate sweetly. I got the feeling that the script tried a little too hard to be profound. Sometimes the phrases used seemed out of character, but there was some superb use of simple lighting techniques to bolster and underline the actions on stage.
The third piece really kicked the night into gear as Grant Leat burst onto the stage with an authoritative performance in a reimagining of the events around the assassination of President Kennedy. This was definitely the highlight of the night: the script was extremely well observed with some great details on the politics of the time. The whole scene bristled with machismo and paranoia as two government agents quiz a journalist on what she’s seen and relay a conspiracy involving the shooter being the driver of the car behind who was only supposed to wound the President.
The final piece took place mostly on an aeroplane, and was the most immersive experience of the four. The audience are all on the plane with D. B. Cooper, a charismatic would-be bomber (again played brilliantly by Leat). The narrator of the story, a detective called Skipp Porteous, is also on the plane with the audience, creating a wonderfully intimate and encompassing albeit absurd environment. The story follows an unidentified man in the USA who hijacked a plane in 1971, demanded $200,000, then parachuted out never to be seen again. There was great chemistry between Leat and Hartung (who played an airhostess) and with some more dedicated staging and development this could be fantastic.
Overall Classified showed a lot of potential. I did think that the order the plays were shown could have been better. Starting with the Kennedy assassination would have provided a much better kick in the beginning. The old church that is The Space was used to great effect and the constant movement demanded of the audience kept things interesting. It was a very fun and engaging evening and well worth the money, I will definitely be spending my weekend looking up the mysteries and ruminating about what I saw.
Authors: Hinterkaifeck, Olivia Borton; Unidentified, Treasa Nealon; Babushka, Babushka, Matthew Grace; Into The Air, David Shopland and Callum Hughes.
Director: David Shopland
Producer: 20:20 Vison Theatre
Booking Until: 31st October
Box Office: 02075157799
Booking Link: https://space.org.uk/event/classified/