A nuclear catastrophe has wiped out the entire civilised world. Only four passengers of a plane crash survive, stranded on a desert island. How do they know this? Some crackling and a scream saying they’re all dead from the end of a damaged radio. Their reaction? Talk about cars and sex.
Holes, a dark comedy by Tom Basden presents the audience with a surreal exploration of choice, power, and the human complex in a mere hour and forty minutes. The four characters, two males and two females, are stranded together on a tissue paper beach for the majority of the show. The plane crash offstage, marking both the unseen and the unwanted which was left behind. Despite the bleakness of the situation, the gags are frequent, often led or directed at the males who are the first to revert to chaos and devolution.
Despite the bleakness of the situation, the gags are frequent
The teenager, Erin, played by Emily Wilson-Knight, suffering the loss of her parents on the plane, is first seen cradled in a corner, among three strangers; older work colleagues, in their mid-thirties at least. Her realistic shock and timidity was a wonderful countermeasure to the bombastic, drunken and foolhardy men that she was stranded with. Her story rapidly becomes increasingly unpleasant thanks to the behaviour of the only other female survivor, Marie, played admirably by Effy Hayle. Then, after a shocking turn of events towards the end of the first half, things go from bad to worse for her.
It is a frequently posed, light-hearted question: if you were stranded on a desert island, what items would you bring? Taking inventory during the play, they could have done with fewer copies of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks, but the early itemisation of a book about the rape of a child was a subtle but chilling suggestion of Erin’s future posed to the audience. Michell Siddons as Ian, a cocky, offensive and determined male, soon asserts himself as the leader of the survivors. Occupying himself with documenting human knowledge and the unrealistic ravings of building farms and irrigation systems, he cares little for Marie, and disgraces her death, behaving like a ‘rutting pig’. A strong performance, Siddons perfectly characterised the archetypal bravado covering emptiness and selfishness.
Charlie Ralph, as Gus, was a brilliant foil to Ian. An intoxicated but educated figure could be of great help, if he only sobered up. Seemingly very intelligent and sensible, from the few sentences which were not passionate recitations of songs, he stumbled across the room with spirits, reclusive, for most of the play. Played with great commitment and comedy, the steady drunkenness, moving to sobriety and perhaps derangement was convincing and well-timed.
A strong performance, Siddons perfectly characterised the archetypal bravado covering emptiness and selfishness.
The looming threat which hangs over the play is the fate of Erin. Unaware of Ian’s motives early on, at the start of the second act, he is surprised by her ignorance of her situation. How can she not see that as one of the only females left on earth, it is her duty to breed? Ian’s rejection of the idea of choice, insisting that the teenager must mate with him soon was a sickeningly admirable performance. His gradual descent into fantasy and delusion clear. Gus’ protests and defence of Erin are short before he too begins to assert is claim over her. Although the fate of Erin is shown by the end of the second act, gracefully, the events leading to it are concealed from the audience. Are there good men? In this play, it is unclear if good men have reverted, or if they were never good to begin with. Descending into a much darker piece in the second act, from comedy to drama, the audience are left to question many critical elements. Were they really the last humans on earth? Will they survive? And, should they survive?
Holes continues to run in The Drama Barn until Sunday 27th May. For more information and to book tickets, visit Dramasoc’s website here.