The Divide, 09/08/17 & 10/08/17, ★

My initial intention was to keep these reviews to comedy shows and as I’ve said in the about section I also don’t want to trash anything that someone has tried particularly hard to put together. However, I felt that an exception had to be made for this show. The difficulty in reviewing theatre is that I feel open to accusations that I just didn’t understand what was going on.

In this play there really isn’t all that much that you can be confused about. This is because every single scene is spoken directly to the audience in the form of a diary entry. This would be tedious over a short time frame, but over six hours it kills any feeling that you have for the characters or for the story. From the first minute the story is ruined with exposition and this doesn’t relent for the rest of the show.

There is no need for this to last as long, it could easily have been cut down to an hour and a half, but I suppose there’s a reluctance to tell one of the great writers of British theatre that so much can be removed. I have never in my life watched something as repetitive. The lead male character goes swimming with his teacher, again and again and again. There are numerous meetings of the town council. A scene where names are to be recited by memory from a town memorial appears time after time in the second half. No one seems to learn or change all that much from any of these incidents. Any transformations that do take place are lost in the time it takes for the particular bit to stop happening.

The actors clearly have huge potential, but they get to show almost none of that due to awful scripting. There would have been more drama had they actually read their lines from sheets of paper, at least it would have looked like a diary. There was one particularly poor moment where, when ripping up an offensive drawing that her son has done, a character begins shouting as if she’s undergoing dental treatment without anesthetic. It must be assumed that the actor didn’t quite understand why they were instructed to react like that.

The King’s Theatre opened in 1906 and last Tuesday they finally discovered that the seats in the Upper Circle are not fit for purpose. I know terrible seats aren’t the fault of the production, but they serve to ruin the experience further. I’m only 5″4 and my legs were doubled back on themselves, I assume anyone of average height had to have their legs amputated in order to leave the theatre. Great that they noticed this error in time for Wednesday and offered everyone sitting in this section an upgrade to the Dress Circle. A testament to how many people failed to return for the second half of this monstrosity. The theatre also serves good ginger beer and ice cream, so there’s that at least.

A decent ending to the play is forfeited in favour of a thirty minute section where emails that characters have sent to each other are read out verbatim. This is perhaps the most infuriating section of the whole thing.

But what I find most rancid is that everyone who who wants to see the whole play has to pay twice, to attend both parts 1 & 2. This cash grab stays sour in the memory for many who endured the dreadful experience of sitting through The Divide Part 1 and The Divide Part 2.

 

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