Reviewed – 29th March 2019
“not quite the rallying cry to action it ought to be”
Imagining the “blood and destruction” that will sweep Italy, Marc Antony famously pictures the moment when Caesar’s spirit “Ranging for revenge, With Ate by his side come hot from hell, Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice, Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war”. Lacking true drama, threat or passion, Tom Coash’s play, sadly, never lives up to the promise of its title.
Mohammed El-Masri (James El-Sharawy) returns to a trashed flat in Egypt after six days of imprisonment and beatings at the hand of the government police forces. Weakened and shaken by his ordeal, he turns to English gent Nicholas Field (Marc Antolin) to help him escape the regime. After pleading with Karren Winchester’s bizarrely entertaining immigration officer Ms. Nevers, Nicholas gets the visa they need. But Mohammed’s love for his homeland is not so easily overcome, and he ends up facing a stark choice.
Told through various conversations taking place in Mohammed’s flat, Coash’s script introduces a vital topic for our times: the continued and frequent imprisonment and torture of gay men in countries across the world. And yet his play lacks any real intention or high stakes, and his characters remain forgettable. We meet Mohammed at the wrong time in his story so that the anguish of his ordeal draws less sympathy than it should. Considering this moment defines so much of the character’s actions, some sense of who he was before his imprisonment would have really added to our understanding of his character.
Director Pamela Schermann’s well-known skills never quite shine through in this production, hampered, perhaps, by the script. Time passes, but it is often unclear how much. Her actors do well however in the regular black-outs to change scene in character. Mohammed and Nicholas’ relationship struggles to convince however, and even an awkwardly placed scene where the pair reminisce about how they met (and handily fills us in on their history in the meantime) fails to make it clear who these characters really are and why they are trying to be together in the first place. The climax therefore lands with a dull thud. This story deserves more.
‘Cry Havoc’ has too many caricatures and not enough character. An important story that raises awareness of a global problem, but not quite the rallying cry to action it ought to be.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photography by Lidia Crisafulli
Park Theatre until 20th April
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: