THEATRE Theatre Reviews Wild East Royal Court London UK REVIEWS

Wild East

Royal Court Theatre


In Wild East a young man, Frank, played by Tom Brooke, turns up for an interview at the modern office of a business corporation. He is a nerdy young anthropology graduate and is being interviewed by two doctors, cynical Dr. Pitt (Sylvestra Le Touzel) and the more business-minded Dr. Gray (Helen Schlesinger).

What Frank doesn't know is that the corporation has recently been bought out, leaving everyone in an uncertain position. The doctors view each other and Frank as a threat to their careers and the interview quickly becomes a power struggle between the two women. The interview is being filmed by the corporation's bosses and Dr. Pitt is suffering from post-traumatic stress after an accident, facts that only serve to heighten the tension.

April de Angelis's subject seems to be the conflicting moral standpoints of those who study other cultures and those who make use of their findings. In this case, Frank's study of Russian culture (Russia being the Wild East of the title) and the corporation's wish to exploit his knowledge for marketing purposes.

It has to be said that the messages of the play aren't made very clear and seem a little muddled. This may be due to the slightly under-rehearsed feel of this production. The actors at times seemed tense and occasionally stumbled over their lines. However, this is probably just a teething problem that will disappear once the actors have a few more performances under their belts. Only Tom Brooke seemed entirely comfortable in his role as Frank. Brooke manages to create a three-dimensional and compelling character out of unclear material, he is definitely an actor to look out for in the future.

The focus of the production is on the actors' dialogue, so there isn't a great deal to say about the mise-en-scene. Mark Thompson's set depicts a spacious minimalist, modern office. The actors spend much of the time sitting around a glass table on futuristic lemon-yellow office chairs. Unusually, the set has a ceiling so it appears as if the action is enclosed in a large box. The walls and ceiling made of planks of wood, with vertical strips of metal in between, placed at irregular intervals, so the back wall almost looks like one big barcode. At the same time it's suggestive of prison bars, possibly suggesting that the characters are somehow trapped in the corporate world.

Although the play isn't entirely cohesive, watching Wild East is still an enjoyable experience. The dialogue is intelligent, witty and often laugh-out-loud funny. Phyllida Lloyd's pacy direction keeps this otherwise rather wordy play zipping along, and the plot contains enough unusual twists to hold the audience's interest. © RW

“Wild East” is at Royal Court Theatre from the 27th of January until the 12th of March, 2005.

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