Review: From London, Eng. KARAGULA

by Lynn on June 28, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Styx, Tottenham Hale, London, Engl.

Written by Philip Ridley
Directed by Max Barton
Designed by Shawn Soh
Co-Designed by Frankie Bradshaw
Lighting by Ric Mountjoy
Composer and sound by Jethro Cooke
Cast: Obi Abili
Tony Bell
Emily Burnett
Lynette Clarke
Emily Forbes
Lanre Malaolu
Caroline Parker
Theo Solomon
Charmaine Wombwell

A typical Philip Ridley voyage into hell. He writes of a world of demons, violence, mayhem and the survival of the most ruthless. A riveting production.

The Story. Only the text synopsis will do for this “fantasy epic.” “On a beautiful spring evening—when both moons are full—two teenagers vow eternal love. It is a moment that will have cataclysmic consequences. Not just for them, but for the world on which they live. A world where Prom Night is a matter of life and death, where weapons are grown and trained like pets, and where a chosen few are hearing a voice. A voice that speaks of….Karagula.

Philip Ridley’s Karagula is a story of epic proportions. Written in fractured timescale, it explores our constant need to find meaning. To believe we’re here for a reason. To have faith in something. Faith in…anything.”

Whew! Just to add to give you a sense of the weird-oddness of the piece, Dean and Libby are the couple. He was to be picked Prom King and in this town of Mareka that meant that the Prom King was to be killed as a sacrifice. Then the assassin was to be hunted down. It seems that Mitch, a leading guy of the town, wanted to be Prom King. When he didn’t get it he fashioned this revenge and the people followed through with it. Over time Mitch becomes Grand Marshall of the town. We soon learn this means “dictator.”

The Production. Director, Max Barton is a wizard at creating this forbidding world. His design team are also masters. The first Act takes place in a space with the audience on either side of the playing space. I particularly love his neat, unobtrusive set changes. While scenes are played at one end of the space, an elaborate new set is established just off from there, in dark, totally silent.

The second Act takes place in another area of Styx, with the audience facing the stage, set in a nether world of hideous creatures and names of characters either from ancient history or outer space films. Mitch is totally out of control and is finally challenged.

The acting is stellar with many actors playing several parts. The design team of Shawn Soh and Frankie Bradshaw create some of the most inventive costumes I’ve ever seen. There are creatures covered in a kind of shaggy fur; two characters are enveloped in a mass of what looks like video tape and stiff plastic ties used to contain computer wires and keep them neat. All one could see of the character is a face and hands and feet on the ground. Another costume is all white with sharp quills-pointed needles protruding out front and back on a white vest. There are also needles coming out of the head piece.

The colour scheme seems to be black, white and pink. The men and women wear hot pink pants, suits, shoes, jackets and variations of that for the whole three hour show. Whimsy when you least expect it. The production also uses technology, computer generated images, and all manner of sophisticated images.

Comment. Philip Ridley wrote Pitchfork Disney, which was given a wonderful, eerie production earlier in the year by director John Shooter. Ridley writes of the dark side of life. He writes of a world gone mad. We are never without a ruthless dictator, or a religious war, or those wanting to control minds, so his plays fit right in. I thought of 1984 as an example of this kind of world. Karagula takes off from there.

Coincidentally John Shooter is in London so we went to see this together. At one point we looked at each other and asked, “Do you know what’s going on?” And while the details of what is going on get lost in the swirl of time and activity, the production is never less than riveting. The writing is strong in setting the tone and time. The direction and certainly the design envelope you in this world, leaving you breathless at the end.

The venue (Styx) is interesting and apt. A sign says it’s a place to tell stories. The ‘lobby’ is an outdoor area covered with a tent top. Food and drink are served. There are uneven wooden-walkways leading to the various areas of the space. There is a pool of water in the middle. Couches and benches are arranged around the edges. A make-shift garden is also there. The house manager has planted herbs and flowers and he waters them with a pitcher of water he gets from the pool. How anything grows under the tent top is a mystery. He has also planted mint in the same area as the herbs and flowers. Brave, that. Mint is an aggressive weed that will take over. That seems fitting for a play about dictators who want to take over.

Produced by PIGDOG

Opened: June 10, 2016.
Saw it: June 27, 2016.
Closes: July 9, 2016.
Cast: 9; 4 men, 5 women

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