There are two words to describe this: amateurish and pretentious. I tried very hard to like it but I ended up being very cross at wasting a valuable weekday evening standing in the cold unable to make any sense of what was happening in this rather bizarre production. Maybe my expectations were raised by the producers’ marketing of this show but it certainly didn’t stand up to any of their hyperbole.
We were told that the production started at 8:30 but we couldn’t get into the park till after 9 and even then it felt like a lengthy walk whose only purpose was to show off the various cast members lined up along the walk. Quite what they added to Babel, I have no idea. They were all chanting ‘Today is the day’ which, initially, was intriguing but soon became tiresome and irritating.
At the venue itself, there was confusion as to what we were meant to see. We fell upon a group trying to build houses with bamboo sticks and were encouraged to join in. Apparently everybody was building a city where every citizen would be happy. I asked one of the cast members what this show was all about and she told me it was to help the audience to understand what the Basildon’s travellers’ felt when they were asked to evict their homes in Dale Farm. It was precisely at this point when I lost whatever goodwill I had towards this show.
Soon security men turned up and asked the dwellers to move although I am not sure if we were given a reason for this sudden development. But why let reason get in the way of a politically correct utopia? And in the end one of the security men decided that he was human and everybody should live happily ever after.
The concept is an interesting one but very little thought has gone into expanding this vision into a credible and compelling story, leaving many in the audience cold (both literally and figuratively). The way the clock tower in the park is used in this production is probably the only redeeming feature in this show. Ultimately, this is pedestrian material posing as a theatrical event. Best avoided.
Until 20 May.
Performance time: expect to spend 3 hours, some of it queueing.