Your Molotov Kisses
Reviewed – 10th August 2018
“Ott exposes a very contemporary problem about the distinction between the right to speak freely and the right to speak hatefully“
All stories need a protagonist, a hero if you like, and who better than the most ordinary and unassuming of people? Let’s say, just as an example, a middle-class couple, hardworking professionals who want to start a family. Characters the audience can like, recognise, even relate to. But what happens when the heroism is tainted, the façade falters, and the likeability vanishes? You get a sensitively written play that manages to capture the anxieties and prejudices of the modern day with light humour and unrelenting provocation. In short, you get Your Molotov Kisses.
Gustavo Ott’s (anti-)heroes are Daniel and Victoria, who are happily married until a package arrives from MI5 with Victoria’s name on it. Inside is a long lost backpack containing the secrets of a long forgotten past, in which the white, Christian Victoria was involved with Muslims – both socially and romantically, much to Daniel’s disgust. As their respective prejudices rise to the surface, it becomes clear that this is more than a domestic dispute. The real enemy, after all, cannot be them, but the insidious “others” who are intent on destroying their peace of mind.
A small makeshift living room, complete with a Fortnum and Mason hamper centre stage, does little to prepare the audience for the unrelenting hour of political commentary that follows. This play may not be for those who want a visual spectacle, but the minimalistic set works in harmony with the dialogue. The lighting is particularly effective: director Gianluca Lello has each character slip in and out of the spotlight, reinforcing the theme of concealment that interests Ott so much. Above all, it allows his precise writing and sharp political insights to speak for themselves. His dialogue is fast-paced, and the audience barely has time to catch their breath before the next question is raised. Luckily, Lydia Cashman and Matthew Bromwich’s strong, centred performances ensure that we remain invested. They imbue the dialogue with genuine and believable emotion whilst skilfully avoiding melodrama or broad comedy.
The gaze of this play is so far-reaching that it would be impossible to include all its insights here; it is difficult even to summarise. Perhaps, more than anything, it is a play about the right to hate. Ott exposes a very contemporary problem about the distinction between the right to speak freely and the right to speak hatefully. Victoria and Daniel do not distinguish between people. She cannot remember whether an old flame is Iranian, Syrian, or Saudi; he does not acknowledge outsiders, save to dismiss them as a waste of time. Both are scared by the prospect of their lives being altered by outsiders, but does this justify their hatred? Is this free speech, or hate speech? When the audience laughs at the witty dialogue, are they condemning or colluding with them?
All are necessary questions we must ask of ourselves and of others; Ott ensures that we do. This play may have premiered ten years ago, but it still feels fresh, timely and – above all – necessary.
Reviewed by Harriet Corke
Your Molotov Kisses
Etcetera Theatre until 16th August
as part of The Camden Fringe Festival 2018