Review: Gibraltar @ArcolaTheatre
Review and production pics: Before the Party, Almeida Theatre

Review: Caryl Churchill's The Hospital at the Time of the Revolution at the Finborough

Hospital-topA world premiere of a play written more than 40 years ago? It does immediately raise the question of why it took so long - was it too controversial for the time or just not good enough?

The play is set in a psychiatric hospital in 1950's Algeria during the struggle for independence from France. The hospital treats patients from both sides of the struggle and the play is presented as a series of medical cases: A teenage daughter of a French Algerian civil servant is brought in because she has started behaving out of character and insists she is dying, a group of revolutionaries are shell-shocked and suffer from paranoia and a policeman wants to stop his work spilling over into violent behaviour at home.

Through these cases it paints a picture of a country that is itself sick with racism, fear and violence, a country that is diseased by colonialism. Each case is presented from one perspective, the psychiatrist remains impassive and nothing is challenged or guided by the professional. It works in leaving the audience to debate the rights and wrongs, who are the biggest victims but equally it leaves the audience to be psychoanalysts which I found a little frustrating. I suppose I wanted some sort of deeper explanation of what was mentally wrong, particularly with the teenage daughter, or maybe I wanted a slightly different play.

It is far being a bad play but it has its moments of monotony - when you have a patient who is obviously paranoid how much of that paranoia do you need repeatedly played out in front of you before it just gets irritating? As a result, there was one point when I did become obsessed with a draughts board that had been set up as part of a scene and which had a couple of easy moves but wasn't touched.

On the Finborough's website is says the running time is 60 minutes when in fact it is a lot longer than that, an hour and 40 minutes straight through. Maybe some pruning would have been beneficial. I'm surprised The Hospital at the Time of the Revolution took so long to reach the stage flaws and all which leaves me wondering about the subject matter and the time it was written.

It runs at the Finborough Theatre on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays until April 16.