Monday, March 12, 2007

Ship of Fools by Andrew Bovell

Last Wednesday we received a special invite to a small theatre above a pub in Battersea, Theatre 503, to see Ship of Fools a new play by Andrew Bovell (he also wrote Strictly Ballroom, for example) and write a review for the blog.

Ship of Fools follows two sets of characters in different periods of time, 1492 in Basel and 2007 in Britain.  Pietro de Convinso (Jonathan Oliver) is sent by the Pope to try members of the Basel town council for gathering their outcasts, handicapped and homosexuals and casting them out onto the Rhine, on a ship with no mast or oars.  In modern day Britain a group of long term unemployed are sent out to the countryside to work for the dole.

One side is seen from each time, in 1492 we are shown a town council who fail to recognise their own faults making them believe they are doing the right thing, and in 2007 an ecclectic group of people who, for separate reasons are unemployed and feel left behind and rejected. A cast of six play all the characters, seamlessly changing between them without losing any depth in the characters.

The size of the room makes the whole thing very intimate and any of the vital scenes feel much more intense.  The set design was minimal, just a bench, some stairs and a platform, but the actors make full use of the stage often sitting on the floor and entering from two sides of the stage.

The play was at times moody and intense, but at all times it was very different and interesting.  The performances were strong and often you felt you were there with them.

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