Pro’s: A bright young cast with a concept that dares to be different.
Con’s: The promise of an immersive experience never quite materialises in the true sense of the word.
Southwark Street is fast becoming South London’s answer to the North’s Upper Street. The Bunker, Menier Chocolate Factory and Katzpace, three fringe theatres all located within a five minute walk of each other. Tonight The Bunker certainly lived up to its name, situated at the end of a long ramp that suddenly descends to a black, subterranean space. However, gaining entry to the performance area is something of a trial, akin to two falls and a submission. Once inside, we find ourselves in the lower decks of Summerhall, a ship that will guide us to a place of safety from the Newts, who are now the dominant species on earth. Beecause War With The Newts, based on the 1936 satirical science-fiction novel by Czech author Karel Capek, imagines a post-apocalyptic world where super newts reign supreme.
As the journey begins, three virtual hosts appear via TV screens to explain exactly how we got here. Flickering images of the hosts known simply as one, two and three are heavily reminiscent of 80s Channel 4 video show Max Headroom (if you were born after the 80s the reference will mean nothing to you!). We learn of the British fishermen who first discovered the super newts; and how they were enslaved and exploited for profit by multi-national corporations. However, nature finds a way as these super intelligent creatures develop problem solving skills, ultimately rising up against world power and vested interest. The political analogies are obvious, as the strong exploit the weak to a point where the worm (or in this case, newt) turns.
A three strong cast prove themselves as charismatic, versatile performers, taking on multiple roles in the course of a 75 minute presentation. Everal A. Walsh jumps between broad Yorkshire and deep southern states accents; Nadi Kemp-Sayfi affects a perfect South Wales dialect, while Sam Redway is excellent as arrogant British Diplomat Edwardson.
The play never fails to engage the audience, but falls short of the truly original production it strives to be. The publicity blurb drops immersive into the equation and I took it literally. The play’s format would have been perfect for immersive theatre but it never really happens. However it remains a bright, cleverly devised piece of theatre from a cast that shows great promise.
Based on the novel by: Karel Capek
Written and Directed by: Tyrrell Jones
Dramaturg: Matthew Xia and Sam Redway
Producers: Alice Barber/Knaive Theatre
Box Office: 0207 234 0486
Booking Link: https://www.bunkertheatre.com/whats-on/war-with-the-newts/book-now
Booking until: 27 October 2018