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Ding Dong the Wicked, Royal Court

Caryl Churchill
Directed by Dominic Cooke

Pros: A unique concept with an unnerving plot, delivered by a strong and familiar cast.

Cons: The dialogue is disjointed which detracts from the credibility of the circumstances, and twenty minutes is not really long enough to get fully engaged.

Our Verdict: If you are going to see one of the other two performances at the Royal Court it’s worth getting there an hour early to catch this.

Credit: Johan Persson for the Royal Court

I’m afraid this may be a short review, as at twenty minutes in length, this was a very short production. I think the idea is that you see two performances in one evening as Caryl Churchill has also written Love and Information which is on in the Jerwood Downstairs. Standing alone, Ding Dong the Wicked is an interesting and quite powerful piece of writing, delivered by a strong and familiar cast. The trouble is, as soon as you sit down and grasp what is happening, it’s over.

Now I really can’t say much about the content as I could give the entire twenty minutes of drama away in a couple of well constructed sentences. It is a script of two halves: essentially there are two scenes that use the same script arranged in different order to present two families’ sides of the same story. It feels like you arrive late in the second act of the play, as though there is a whole back story you miss while you are in still in the bar. There are several disjointed and adjunctive elements happening simultaneously, and without introduction or context, the drama just happens in front of you. This is immediately and intentionally disarming – the objective of this little piece is to challenge and unbalance the audience, and it succeeds. It’s a powerful concept, a sabulous subject matter and an unnerving series of events.

The accomplished cast give strong performances and each play two different characters in each act with conviction. There is nothing really noteworthy though, they are not given the opportunity to deliver anything particularly exceptional in such a short time. It is really all about the text. And here is where I have an issue – the dialogue feels stilted, each character’s lines isolated from the others. Using the same words in a different order to convey two different facets of the same story is challenging, no doubt. Churchill adds to the complexity as she introduces some quirky subjects: beautiful trees, a dead dog and a crying child locked away. The blunt and abrupt meter of the dialogue may be intentional but it feels a little forced and whilst it adds to the perplexity of the play, it detracts from the credibility of the circumstances making it feel a little surreal.

Then, just as perception is adjusted and you engage with the concept, it is over. It is surprising just how short twenty minutes is in the theatre, and though I knew this was the running time I still felt a little cheated when it ended. That said, if you are in West London and you can get a ticket, I would recommend seeing it. It is unique and provocative and worth a look.

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

Ding Dong the Wicked runs at the Royal Court in addition to their autumn season until 13th October 2012.
Box Office: 020 7565 5000 or book online at http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/ding-dong-the-wicked

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