EUTCo’s penultimate show of the year, The Angry Brigade, opened on Wednesday, and certainly lived up to the standard set by the society’s recent productions. Fiery, clever and comedic, the show filled the Lemon Grove with a sense of anarchy and rebellion that satisfied my expectations for James Graham’s 2014 play. Directed by Maya De Freitas and Assistant Directed by Niamh Smith, The Angry Brigade established itself amongst the rabble of Term 3 shows and demonstrated the range of talent that the university holds.
When homemade bombs start to appear in suspicious locations around London in the ‘70s, the police begin an investigation into locating the group of young anarchists responsible. The anarchists are filled with disgust over the state of the country: capitalism and self-interest have taken over, and they decide that what the country really needs is ‘a bang, to make everybody look up’. But not all of the Brigade are as committed to the cause as first implied, and Anna finds herself questioning the lengths she is prepared to go to make people listen, and the sacrifices she must make.
[The Angry Brigade] demonstrated the range of talent that the University holds
Potentially the most immediately impressive aspect of the show was its set design and staging: arranged in a traverse layout (with the audience seated on both sides of the stage), we were able to observe the two polar opposite locations of the play. One side, tidy and respectable, housed ‘The Branch’: a welcoming office complete with teapot and biscuit plate, dedicated to locating the activists. Facing it, separated by two lines of white tape on the floor, was the Brigade’s base: messy, dirty and explosive. It countered the neat office opposite in a very satisfying manner. As they faced each other, the way the actors played with eye contact and power dynamics added to the two-sidedness of their opposing ideologies and attitudes.
Potentially the most immediately impressive aspect of the show was its set design and staging
‘The Angry Brigade’ had a stellar cast of 8 very talented actors, who brought to life the struggles of fighting a system and the attempt to maintain it. Special mentions, I believe, must go to Kristina Godwin, Danny Baker and Helena Berry: Kristina, who played Anna, gave a depth to the activist that was hugely touching, and very genuine. Danny and Helena’s comic timing and energy helped to ensure that the office story line had strength of its own, instead of being overshadowed by the more traditionally exciting characters of the Brigade.
One thing I found slightly jarring was the characterisation of the Brigade: although acted sublimely, the archetypal creation of a group of young anarchists, dressed in double denim, leather and Doc Martins, with dark eye make-up who chain smoke cigarettes and scowl, seemed slightly clichéd. Perhaps this was deliberate, to present them as the original punks, but nevertheless, compared to the standard of the rest of the design, it seemed a little obvious. Another small note would be on transitions: I’d have enjoyed a little more creativity with the scene changes, instead of silent blackouts. Within the scenes, a sense of life and reality was apparent, and it was a shame when that energy dipped between them.
Overall, the power and sense of importance of the play overshadowed any slight niggles that I had: stunningly acted, with clever design and creative direction, The Angry Brigade was a piece of intelligent theatre. It was funny, dark, genuine and sensitive, and left me feeling that I had seen something very relevant and highly entertaining.