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Have I None by Edward Bond at the Golden Goose Theatre

If the situation in Have I None is really going to be what the future is like, I don’t want it. Sara (Abigail Stone) is cooped up at home, and the world appears to have gone back into lockdown. But unlike the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, there doesn’t seem to be anything in the way of masses of online content (no, I’m not talking about blue movies), the powers that be in 2077 having managed, one way or another, to abolish entertainment. Almost everything in the world has changed, and the housing crisis seems to have been resolved by totalitarian methods – everyone lives somewhere, but everyone lives where the Government, if they should still be called that, dictate they should live. But getting rid of homelessness and getting rid of people’s freedoms should not be mutually exclusive, one of many points this play brings up for further discussion and dissection after you’ve seen it.

Have I None - Photograph by Francesco Codardo.
Have I None – Photograph by Francesco Codardo.

There are other aspects of people’s lives that “the service” Jams (and it is Jams, not James) (Brad Leigh) works for controls. Austerity has become so extensive that even the past has been abolished – I’d like to think council tax was a thing of the past, together with queues at the post office. Anyway, when the oddly named Grit (Paul Brayward) invites himself into Jams and Sara’s house claiming to be a blast from the past, Jams genuinely doesn’t know who he is and Sara is in point-blank denial. It’s a strange and rather extreme dystopia, and the characters bicker about the most insignificant aspects of living together, which begins as mildly amusing but quickly becomes tedious to watch.

Perhaps this is deliberately so, a portrait of what could be if life as we knew it were to cease, and replaced with something inferior. I got the feeling, however, that the dramatic tension could have been more pronounced – the pauses and silences took away from the pressure that might otherwise have built up, leaving more explosive moments in the dialogue to arise somewhat implausibly, instead of a natural progression of ongoing disagreements. Covering the same ground repeatedly palpably irritated the other party between Jams and Sara, with Grit invariably caught in the middle, in a bizarre household where even sitting in a chair is a cause for profound and sustained disagreement.

With just one act, the differences between life in this play’s version of 2077 and the present day aren’t as fleshed out as they could be. Mind you, the world has come a long way since the play was first published in 2000, as has Britain in particular. It would have been interesting to have found out, for instance, whether ambulance waiting times and energy bills would really be any worse. There are some interesting points about obedience to authority, and the ability to resist the status quo against all the odds. But poison intended for one person being consumed by another has been done before (Hamlet, anyone?) and despite some committed performances from the cast, the show raises more questions than it resolves.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

It is 2077. Faced with ecological disaster and economic chaos, governments have become authoritarian and repressive. Domestic family life struggles to survive in a world of fleeing refugees, mass suicides, ruined and deserted suburbs and soldiers patrolling the streets. Frenzied mass consumerism has been replaced by standard-issue houses, furniture and food. The old cities lie in ruins and the people have been resettled. In this broken world, sheer human goodness and vision asserts itself in stubborn and radiant ways. Sara is unhappily married to Jams who works for the security services, but when a man turns up at their door, with a photograph of two children, claiming to be her brother, Sara’s memory stirs.

Sara – Abigail Stone
Jams – Brad Leigh
Grit – Paul Brayward

Director – Lewis Frost

Tuesday 24 January 2023 – Saturday 28 January 2023
Golden Goose Theatre
146 Camberwell New Road
London, SE5 0RR

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