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Who is Moloch?, Press Play House

Pamela Carralero

Directed by Zuri Warren 
Pros: An intelligent script with an interesting look at human rights, environmental issues and the military.
Cons: The script is far too large and cinematic to be performed in a freezing shoebox theatre in Hackney.
Our Verdict: This clever show felt cramped and stifled by a space which cannot provide the stage, lighting, sound or special effects required to make this truly effective.
Credit: Harriet Armstrong for Encompass Productions
Situated on Vyner Street, the Press Play House is a small space just off Cambridge Heath Road. It is a charming yet rather teensy space which is pretty hard to find if you don’t know where you’re going. As it was my first time there, I gave myself an extra half hour to allow for traffic and/or Google maps potentially letting me down. As I turned down Vyner Street, I saw a number of posters for Who is Moloch? spread across the front wall of one of the buildings so I promptly entered by the nearest door. Inside, I was greeted by a lavish champagne reception and a smartly dressed welcoming committee. I wandered around, sipping champagne for a whole 10 minutes before realising I had somehow been horrifically mistaken for an important art critic. Somehow the lady on the door thought it would be perfectly logical that someone from everything theatre would be there to review their postmodern abstract surrealist paintings. When the mistake was spotted, I promptly asked the room full of polo-necks if anyone knew where Press Play House was, but alas nobody had any idea. Luckily, it was right next door and I still wasn’t late for the show. My sincerest apologies again to the art gallery, and many thanks for the lovely champagne!
Acclaimed science-fiction writer China Mieville was recently quoted as saying that all good science-fiction draws heavily on the real world around us, and that no matter how ‘out there’ the plot seems, the story and characters must remain deeply rooted in who we are and where we are heading as a species. Who is Moloch? is a story about soldiers of the coalition set in a fictional dystopian future. This is a World War III scenario which points directly at current affairs – particularly certain environmental and political difficulties which we are all aware of. The script forces us to take a look at human rights from the point of view of soldiers fighting unnecessary wars for reasons which are not beneficial to the majority. It also takes a close and uncomfortable look into the controlled use of drugs either to keep the soldiers in line or as part of a larger, more sinister experiment.
This is a highly dramatic show with big ideas, big guns and big explosions. The script is far too intelligent and thought provoking to belong in the realm of silly boys’ stories and yet I struggled to enjoy the show. The only real reason for this is simply the space. I saw every drop of blood close enough to see its gloopy ketchupy texture. Also, with every deafening cry and dramatic death scene only a couple of feet away, the play felt overwhelming. This is no fault of the actors who worked very hard to be truthful nor is it the fault of the gloopy ketchup maker who is doubtlessly a fake blood pro. The real issue here is that this play felt like Alice after she has nibbled the ‘Eat Me’ cake and her growing arms and legs are pushing through doors and corridors with her huge cramped face peeping bewilderingly through the attic windows.
All of the performers in this show worked very hard to create interesting, truthful characters and the script provides a lot of scope to think long and hard about the issues raised. The staff in the Press Play House are beyond charming and very helpful indeed and, despite the cold, I would certainly recommend future visits to the venue. However, a show which provides such high octane drama does not belong in a theatre such as this.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Who is Moloch? runs at the Press Play House until 9th February 2013.
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