The Divide by The Old Vic: Edinburgh International Festival Review


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This show has had (incredulously to me) mixed reviews because it is a stellar piece of theatrical work and in particular a stellar piece of direction by Annabel Bolton.

The design of this six hour, two-piece, marathon takes the breath away and it’s a gift that keeps on giving.  The use of gauze which I wonder if the director meant to echo her use of mesh over the actors’ faces as a means of protection from ‘the plague’ was brilliant throughout.

Gauze is an ancient theatrical device that’s rarely exploited these days , yet it is a centrepiece in this outstanding production.  It strikes a chord with me because its ‘old fashioned’ technique chimes beautifully with Alan Ayckbourn’s vision of the future.

His vision has no technology.

Literally none at all.

No snapchat.  No hand held devices.

(OK, a spot of email at the end but that’s it.)

It’s radical and it’s brilliant.

It’s ‘human’.

His dystopia is a romantic one. (And it’s complicated.) Maybe he likes Blur…

Girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they’re girls
Who do girls like they’re boys
Always should be someone you really love

The story is so brilliant on so many levels; sexual, political, racial. His future vision is of a world where black is white and vice versa.

In this play;

  • Women are the dominant sex (but have no self esteem).  They have assumed power and out-bred men.  Yet men STILL pull the strings, somehow.
  • Same sex marriage is the norm.  Heterosexuality is repulsive (Cue a sort of Romeo and Juliet subplot)
  • Republicanism is dead.  Certainly in the UK neoliberalism and free thinking (leftist) politics grow gradually throughout.

I loved every minute of the 6 hours and 5 minutes of this brilliant play.  Sure, it needs tightening but that will happen when you see it LONDON.

Can I just say in closing how mesmerisingly brilliant the two main protagonists were; Erin Doherty and Jake Davies who narrate the show through their childhood to adolescence.

Truly great performances, both.

(Check out the photo above and the amount of highlighting on that script.)