Ten Days

Venue: Drama Barn
Running Until: 15 May
Written & Directed By: Qaisar Siddiqui
Produced By: Kirsty Farthing
Rating: **

This week at the Drama Barn, student-written Ten Days leaves one with mixed feelings; attention to detail as well as daringly different subject matter coincide with writing that is occasionally too melodramatic or cliché. Ambitiously trying to explore “love, despair, power and redemption” in two hours, the play is stretched a little thin whilst trying to fill the large philosophical, sociological and spiritual frame the writer has chosen to adopt.

Set far into the future, Arcled is an AIDS-ridden community of the last of Europe’s population where the average life expectancy is 20, reproduction a strict must, and humanity or hope are almost forgotten concepts. Rabbi Sarah Levine (Anjali Vyas-Brannick) still has faith, and plans to leave Arcled for Israel with her brother Isaac (Ryan Hall), who wavers between numerous existential crises and his consuming love for Quintus (John Askew), the brother of the settlement’s harsh leader Icarus (Joe Williams). Utterly cynical and forcibly pregnant Dahlia (Florence-Anne Stratton), in the meantime, discovers Sarah’s plan and takes drastic action, with dire consequences.

The plot unfolds slowly, perhaps a little too much so – it may be because the setting does seem quite a handful to introduce, but things get spelled out to such a degree that the ideas get dangerously close to simplistic and dialogue too hollow. The text doesn’t allow the audience to draw their own impressions from the story; instead it presents issues in an overtly didactic way that imposes itself rigidly on the viewer. Sarah is pious and long-suffering, miraculously spiritual amidst moral desolation; Icarus is despairing, violent and tyrannical, holding himself and everyone with him back from salvation. All others can be placed somewhere between these two poles on the spectrum, rendering the characters more as 2-dimensional symbols in the telling of an exhausted story.

However, there are aspects to the play which are very strong – had these been built upon a sounder foundation, they would have undoubtedly shone. The dystopic setting was spot-on, with much attention paid to set design and interesting lighting. The smooth fade-out scene transitions gave a cinematic feel, if keeping the audience waiting a little too long in between. John Askew’s fidgety, awkward and strangely infantile Quintus was some very accomplished acting. Overall, a piece which was done well with what little it had to go on; perhaps, had the ideological focus been narrowed and the text rendered less self-conscious, it may not have staggered under its own weight.

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