Archive for August, 2022

The Trials (Donmar Warehouse)

Posted: August 19, 2022 in Theatre
Photo: Helen Murray

Writer: Dawn King

Director: Natalie Abrahami


The air conditioning inside the Donmar Warehouse is working perfectly, guzzling energy seemingly without conscience. Momentarily in this hottest of Augusts, it feels good to be part of a generation that is kicking the can down the road. However, by applying the standards set in Dawn King’s sobering play The Trials, first seen in Germany last year, all of us could eventually be held to account for compliance in such misdemeanours and face possible execution.

King imagines a dystopian near future in which the ravages of climate change have taken hold. In an authoritarian system that is almost as frightening as the impact of global warming itself, 12 young people are summoned to serve on a jury for proceedings which they liken to the Nuremberg trials in the wake of World War II. They meet in a room where the windows are sealed to keep out air that is too polluted to breathe.

The jury hears three cases from older generations and then deliberates: all are accused of contributing to the destruction of the environment in which later generations would have to live, despite being aware of the potential consequences of their actions or inactions. A successful businessman (Nigel Lindsay) pleads that he tried to limit his carbon footprint while carrying out his globetrotting job and travelled by train for holidays. A writer (Lucy Cohu) argues that she could do little to influence change. An oil company executive (Sharon Small) accepts guilt for promoting supposedly environmentally friendly products that were actually no more than “greenwashing”.

The play’s subject matter is depressing, but inspired casting of the jurors makes director Natalie Abrahami’s production of it a joy. Drawn from the Donmar’s programme for nurturing young local talent, the 12 actors are all new or relatively new to the stage. It is remarkable that such a range of clearly identifiable characters can emerge in a play that is only 90 minutes in duration. They are hawks, doves and don’t knows and it is their conflicts and alliances that give the drama its backbone.

Outstanding are: Francis Dourado as Mohammed, who reminds of Henry Fonda’s character in 12 Angry Men, swimming against the tide to argue for compassion and justice rather than revenge; and Joe Locke as the hawkish Noah, who sets the bar of innocence so high that even Greta Thunberg would have difficulty in clearing it. That said, enough singling out of individual, the director harnesses the energy of her youthful company to devise a production that is both exhilarating and engrossing.

The trap awaiting any playwright tackling an issue of topical urgency is preaching to the audience. King walks into the trap open-eyed and the delivery of her message is occasionally heavy-handed. Yet, somehow, this matters little, thanks to the performances of the young actors. This deliberating dozen should each have a bright future in the acting profession, assuming of course that there is any future to be had.

Performance date: 18 August

Writer and director: Jack Robertson


Describing itself in publicity as “a most lamentable comedy” and “an unofficial and unwarranted sequel” to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jack Robertson’s 60-minute comedy, Demetrius Wakes, has set itself targets to live down to. While it would be difficult to make a sequel official more than four centuries after William Shakespeare’s demise, the jury is out over whether or not anything could warrant this flimsy extension to his classic and just how lamentable (or not) it is.

Brought to the stage by MediumRare Productions, the play explores how the dreams of two modern day married couples, drawn loosely from the Bard’s originals, turn into nightmares. It touches on the not uncommon dilemma of dealing with what happens when a joyful burst of romance is taken over by the gradual onset of familiarity and boredom.

Zander (or Lysander) is given a laddish swagger by Jacob Lovesick; he is married to Mia (Hernia), played by Megan Jarvie with a hint of sluttiness. They invite to their home for a wine and cheese party Demetrius, once Mia’s admirer, and his wife Helena. Both couples are celebrating 15 years of marriage.

It occurs to Demetrius (a continuously glum Jack J Fairley) that he fell asleep 15 years earlier and his marriage to Georgia Andrews’ dull Helena must have been a terrible dream. Freeze the action and in steps a highly camp Puck (Sam Harlaut, wearing the Devil’s horns and tight-fitting hot pants) to wreak havoc all round.

What follows resembles a swingers’ gathering without the car keys. Trial pairings of Demetrius with Mia, Zander with Helena, Demetrius with Zander and Mia with Helena come and go. Poor old Puck is left out of all the fun as the four release their pent-up frustrations and spit out venom at each other.

The performances in Robertson’s production of his own play are lively, but not sufficiently so to make the quartet that he has created interesting. The writer’s core idea could have had potential, but a sense of where to take it and develop it fully is not evident and the dialogue contains too little original wit to sustain the comedy even for just an hour.

Although far from lamentable, Demetrius Wakes hitches a ride from Shakespeare and its labours to become less tedious than its main characters are eventually lost.

Performance date: 5 August 2022