Review: Cat, Etcetera Theatre
Review: The urban poetry of Pests at the Royal Court

Review: Another Country, as seen from above at the Trafalgar Studios

ImagesSee the problem with looking down on the stage from up in the gods when the play is set in a 1930s, English public school, is that it is difficult to tell who's who. They all have the same short back and sides haircuts and are wearing pretty much the same set of clothes.

The two main characters of Julian Mitchell's play, about what would make a public schoolboy spy against his country, were distinguishable for having wavy strawberry blond hair - Judd (Will Attenborough) and straight, floppy blond hair - Bennett (Rob Callender). The rest of their school boy compatriots were more difficult to distinguish with out a full view of the face which you don't see much of from on high.

It was a problem and it wasn't. I still enjoyed the play, very much but I did feel like I missed out on some of the plot and nuances purely for not being able to easily identify who was talking to whom. Another Country does take a little while to get into it's stride but is rewarding once it does.

Judd is against the hierarchy and regime of the school: prefects, fags and corporal punishment. He would rather spend his time reading socialist tomes and swotting for his Cambridge entrance exams than playing sports. He is passionate and unyielding when it comes to his communist views and opts out of mainstream school activities whenever possible. As a result, he is seen as a bit strange but is generally tolerated.

Bennett on the other hand plays along with the system but his chief passion is romance. He's in love with another boy, properly in love this time, having worked his way through most of his class mates. Such liaisons are not so much tolerated as ignored. If you don't talk about it and are discreet then everyone turns a blind eye. Getting caught would in the very least result in six lashes of the cane - if the teachers are left out of it.

When a pupil hangs himself having been caught with another boy it throws the school house hierarchy into turmoil. With diminished numbers in the ranks there is a chance the rule abiding and easy-to-reach-for-the-cane Fowler (Rowan Polonski) will stay on. If Judd would just put his principles to one side and become a prefect, balance might be restored and Bennett thinks he can maintain his status within the hierarchy, despite his indiscretions, with a little light blackmail.

Ultimately this is about not fitting in and how emotions are a strong influence in shaping a person. Mitchell suggests that it is the prejudice, homophobia and hypocrisy of the public school system (and society) that pushed those who were to become the infamous Cambridge spies over to the 'other side'.

Attenborough and Callender are definitely actors to watch, the latter is particularly charming as the dreamy, romance driven Bennett. The other stand out is Bill Milner who as a nervous and eager to please fag to the older boys is virtually unrecognisable from anything else I've seen him in.

Another country is definitely worth a look but try not to sit too far up the rake. It runs at the Trafalgar Studios 1 until 21 June.

RS/BW 6DS

I'm drawing on that photo again for this one. Bill Millner has worked with both James McAvoy and Tom Hardy (X-Men First Class and Locke).

 

 

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