Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Friday, March 22, 2024

Power of Sail @ Menier Chocolate Factory...

Write me a play about unplatforming. OK.
You know unplatforming, right, when a speaker gets told they can no longer speak?  Yes. 
Set it at a university. Sure.
An American one; let's say Harvard. OK.
Have an aging out of touch professor play a freedom of speech absolutist. OK.
Make sure the professor invites a guest who is really despicable. Ok.
A Nazi-loving white supremacist, maybe. You betcha.
The students are going to riot, right? Oh yes.
And the professor's Jewish and black colleagues will tell the professor he's making a big mistake, right? Yup.
And something will go horribly wrong? Gotcha.
Oh, and throw in a twist, but signpost it really clearly.  Ok.
So last night Stuart and I sat down to watch Power of Sail at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London's glitzy London Bridge Quarter.
Is there a thin line between hate and freedom of speech? Yes. Is it adequately served here? Not so much.
The characters are just all a little too cliché.
Dominic Dromgoole's direction of class actors Julian Ovenden, Tanya Franks, Giles Terera, Michael Benz, Katie Bernstein, Georgia Landers and Paul Rider is sure-footed enough. It's just writer Paul Grellong’s Power of Sail is all just a little too predictable.
The piece claims to be 'a moral thriller' but the twists and turns are simply plot developments. Thrilling it is not.
In fact, the logistics of the uncovered plot are as strained as the psychological explanation of our ill-fated professor’s behaviour. Charles’ (Julian Ovenden) is apparently dying of envy of colleagues who have become TV regulars.
Ok, academic jealousy is not something that should ever be underestimated of course. But Charles' is a little too pale, a little too naked.
The most interesting character — which isn’t to say the most credible — is bleach-blond PhD student Lucas (Michael Benz), whose unlikely research (a running gag) is on the “agrarian economy and practices of 17th century Sweden.” It’s not his scholarship but his right-wing long game that reenergizes this sluggish play.
Benz is an excellent actor, so I wish the role would have better packaged his deviousness. The scene on the train platform, in which Lucas slyly entices Charles to indulge in some White Pride, is disturbingly fresh. But all subtlety is lost when this Tommy Robinson knockoff takes off his mask.
Giles Terera almost saves the day as his intellectual equal. But it all rather negates the rest of the play. Cut to the chase Mr Grellong and have the debate. Is hate speech also free speech?


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