From the moment you walk into the theatre, the set has a distinct 1984 (the book, not the year) feel. An invisible government controlling a population through clever slogans who treat any contrary voices as harshly as possible, an external threat forever referenced but never named. Very “Big Brother is Watching You“. The development of the story only strengthened these echoes. Luckily, 1984 is one of my favourite books.
The play started off somewhat slowly with a brother and sister (Caleb and Cecily) preparing to escape before they are drafted into the army the following morning. This section did very little in the way of exposition and became annoying quite quickly, feeling a bit forced and overdone.
Things improved rapidly on the appearance of Officer Haines, the draft officer, and his subsequent reappearance after Cecily had escaped, with Caleb attempting to put him off the scent for as long as possible. This is when I became really invested in the characters, and this is when the play took on real meaning.
As the play progresses, Officer Haines, and us as an audience, are forced to grapple with some pretty big questions- what is truth? How do we know what we are being shown in the media is the truth? How can we speak out when things don’t seem right? As the two sides become increasingly polarised I was reminded of the many extreme political views that have become so commonplace in today’s society, and the slow but steady messaging that brings them to the fore. The relevance of this play cannot be underestimated.
The play was, bar the first 15 minutes or so, brilliantly written with excellent acting throughout, especially from Nathan Chatelier as Caleb whose emotional depth was outstanding. Highly recommended.
Review by Emily Gami
Siblings Kaleb and Cecily are ‘Feathers’ – secret objectors defying an all-seeing government that is sending young people off to a mysterious war. The night before the national draft the pair hide out in their family’s bookshop, hoping to go on the run and find sanctuary in the North. But when they receive one final visitor to the shop, in the shape of an army Officer with beliefs of his own, their carefully laid plans are threatened. When does patriotism become ignorance, and when does morality become cowardice?
Performers Nathan Chatelier (Kaleb), Charlotte Keith (Cecily), Matt Howdon (Haines)
Director & Writer Leo Flanagan
Assistant Director Josh Barrow
Producer Isobel Warner for Gutter Street Theatre
Sound Design Daniel Hardwick
Original Song ‘Together We Thrive’ by Maxwell Hayes
Suggested age 15+
The Lion & Unicorn Theatre (Above the Lion & Unicorn Pub), 42-44 Gaisford St, Kentish Town, London, NW5 2ED