Hen & Chickens Theatre
Reviewed – 7th March 2018
“the enthusiasm of the performers is infectious and this is a great introduction to a less familiar play”
The opening scene of Theatre of Heaven and Hell’s production of Abducting Diana quickly lets slip that the actors aren’t taking it too seriously – and that the audience shouldn’t either. As a company, Theatre of Heaven and Hell specialise in quirky, forgotten plays from the absurdist genre – the sort that didn’t quite become cult favourites.
Although Abducting Diana is a satire, this production should not be looked to for scathing reflections on the rich and powerful; masks depicting the likenesses of controversial politicians feel like a token nod to relevance. Really, Theatre of Heaven and Hell is more interested in the absurdism of the whole debacle. When viewed less as a political commentary and more as a comic tale of increasingly extraordinary skulduggery, the joy that the performers are taking in their work breaks through weirdness of the play’s preposterous plot.
In order to tell this gleefully ridiculous tale, director Michael Ward makes full and ambitious use of the space available to him, and his direction mostly comes good. This really lends to the sense that anything can happen at any moment and blends well into the plot of rapidly reallocated loyalties and yo-yoing power dynamics.
The cast are effective in their roles, but, with a handful of stock characters and a constant game of hidden identities for everybody else, only Elena Clements has room to shine as the eponymous Diana. This feels like something of a weak spot in this production, as this leaves the audience struggling to identify with any of the characters on stage, especially as the plot reaches moments of heightened tension or peak silliness.
Overall, this is an ambitious and fun production. It is a little scant on depth, but the enthusiasm of the performers is infectious and this is a great introduction to a less familiar play.
Reviewed by Matthew Wild
Hen & Chickens Theatre until 17th March