There’s a famous piece of theatre by a comedic actor called ‘The Day War Broke Out’ which examines the actions of a family man on that fateful day, including the building of an Anderson Shelter in his garden for when the Germans attacked. In the 1980s the government of the day ran an advertising campaign called ‘protect and survive’ which advised homeowners on how to set up a fallout shelter in their home in the event of a nuclear attack. Now there is a theme running through this opening paragraph and it is that in the event of war, protection of the family should be paramount and that is the basis for Tangled Thread Theatre’s production of “only forever” currently running at the Hope Theatre in Islington.
In a cold, grey bunker somewhere deep underground a family is waiting for a war to end. They have been here a very long time, so long in fact that the youngest child – Charles (Lewys Taylor) – cannot remember being outside and his sister Victoria (Jennie Eggleton) had grown from a child to a woman. However the family, headed by parents George (Edward Pinner) and Margaret (Christine Rose) have adjusted to their life well. Everyone has a list of chores to be done – segregated along gender lines – and at mealtimes, they each take it in turn to thank God for their lives. The parents school their children mother to daughter and father to son, teaching them not only the three ‘R’s’ but also what it means to be a man or woman. Making up the family is the eldest son, Robert, a boy who has previously caused a major upset and is now about to blow them all apart by his actions.
“Only forever” may be Abraham Arsis debut play, but he has put together a very powerful piece that draws the audience in and gets them leaving the theatre asking questions of themselves and the characters. One of the most intriguing was trying to work out the motivation of George. On the day the world went mad, he must have faced a choice – go off and defend the country or take his family into his protection in his father’s shelter. Hopefully it is a choice I will never have to make and I honestly couldn’t, hand on heart, say which way I would have gone. George’s character caused quite a lengthy discussion between my companion and me, as we both viewed him in a different light. In fact the discussion about the significance of George’s final revelation divided us completely. Getting this reaction from us was a wonderful example of writing and acting at its absolute best. Under talented Director Poppy Rowley, the four family members worked amazingly well together and, to be honest, really did feel like a family unit where they had been together just that little bit too long. The parents moving from love to a form of indifference while the teenage daughter goes through her rebellious phase, wanting to be her own person. And Charles, totally at peace with the world he inhabits – apart from the frightening stories of ‘James’ that Victoria teases him with. Families are hard enough to handle normally, so imagine what they are like in the claustrophobic space of a bunker where the only colour is provided by children’s books, one wall is dominated by a dark wooden cross – excellent set design by Ben Eggleton – and there is no contact with the outside world.
“only forever” is an amazing piece of theatre – even the title takes on a special significance in the last five minutes – that had me completely hooked from start to finish, except it never really finished as, even now I am wondering what is happening to George and his family as they sit in their bunker waiting for whatever their future will be.
Review by John Mortis
writer: ABRAHAN ARSIS / director: POPPY ROWLEY
How far would you go to protect your family?
George and Margaret have three children and will do anything to protect them. After war breaks out and threatens their safety, they decide to hide in their bunker, wait for it to end and attempt to carry on with their lives. The days and months pass, the children grow and they seem to remain safe and secure.
As questions begin to arise, cracks start to form that threaten to break this family apart forever. Yet where do they have to go? And who can they turn to except each other? This claustrophobic and intimate new play from Abrahan Arsis, explores the irrational measures we can be driven to, to keep those we care about alive.
This is the second new play from Tangled Thread Theatre Ltd. who previously brought one-woman show Close To You to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Southwark Playhouse. Supporting new talent, they are part of the Professionally Made Professionally Paid Equity programme.
Box Office opens at 7.00pm. The performance lasts approximately 1 hour without Interval. No re-admittance once the performance has commenced.
LATECOMERS MAY NOT BE ADMITTED. PLEASE ARRIVE IN GOOD TIME FOR THE START TIME OF 7.45PM.
Over 18s only.
8th – 26th September 2015
Tuesday to Saturday
A WORLD PREMIERE
Friday 11th September 2015