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Scorched: The Old Vic Tunnels

SCORCHED: A succulent story of mystery and revelation, aptly served in the enigmatic atmosphere of the Old Vic Tunnels, and garnished with the always-popular topic of war and its irreparable effects on the human condition.
Scorched: The Old Vic Tunnels
If you were at a ‘restaurant of theatre’ and you saw Scorched on the menu, it might read something like this: Scorched - £20 – 25 A succulent story of mystery and revelation, aptly served in the enigmatic atmosphere of the Old Vic Tunnels, and garnished with the always-popular topic of war and its irreparable effects on the human condition. A tried-and-tested modern classic from the kitchen of multi-award winning Wajdi Mouawad - today’s most performed French-language playwright.” Sounds pretty tasty, right? Unfortunately, I have to say, this dish did not live up to its billing. Despite the potential offered by such a venue as the Old Vic Tunnels, Scorched emerges as cuisine more to be prodded at than wolfed down. Janine and Simon are the twins who are charged with the mission of a lifetime. In her will, their recently-deceased mother, Nawal, asks them to find their father, whom they had hitherto presumed dead, and their brother, about whose existence they knew nothing at all. That’s quite a bit of news to digest. Yet there wasn’t even the slightest flicker of a reaction from any of the actors to this bombshell – neither from the twins nor the lawyer reading the will, who repeatedly positions himself as a close family friend. This is just one of numerous instances where moments of heightened significance in the characters’ lives are poorly executed. Similar failures-to-launch include the threat of a mother to evict her teenage daughter on account of her pregnancy; the final words of a dying grandmother to her granddaughter; and the reunion between a young woman and the stranger who saved her life as an infant. The script demands an ability to identify and stage some very emotionally intense human realities but the production’s response to this challenge was often feeble. It needed more salt. Or some kind of kick, at least. However, other dimensions of this production were so heavy-handed and excessive that, if we keep with this restaurant-dish analogy, it was like they threw in the whole spice rack. The metaphors, parallels and contrasts in both the writing and staging were painfully blatant and laboured: Janine, a mathematician, solves the riddle of her family’s true past and identity like an elaborate sum; today’s garden sprinkler and roadside drilling double up as yesteryear’s gunfire; a dutiful and traditional middle-eastern burial (characterised by that age-old stage convention of chanting to signify a foreign culture) is juxtaposed with a modern, western attempt to hold its own funeral (complete, too, with its own cliché – the grunting, socially-inept, literally bum-scratching labourer). But I should say that some critics have really appreciated these aspects of the production. So, like a dish, it’s a matter of taste. And here’s the taste test: if you’re the sort of person who enjoys metaphors such as the food one I pushed here in this review, then you’ll probably get a lot out of Scorched. If, like me, you find it a little predictable and generic, then I think you’ll find Scorchedto be along the same lines. Scorched The Old Vic Tunnels, Station Approach, London, SE1 Monday 6th September - Saturday 2nd October Monday to Saturday at 7.45pm Thursday and Saturday Matinee at 2.30pm TICKETS £25, £20 (plus concessions) For further information on Dialogue Productions visit www.dialogueproductions.co.uk For further information about The Old Vic and The Old Vic Tunnels visit www.oldvictheatre.com>

Suresh Patel

Friday 17 September, 2010

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