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Urban Wolves Theatre Company Presents Experiment 150 | Review

Experiment 150
Experiment 150

We live in terrifying times, an age of never-ending wars fuelled by political propaganda, theft of personal information, Big Brother methods of surveillance and a propensity in media to support government wrong-doing in the name of patriotism and the public good.

Bryan Oliver’s explosive new play, Experiment 150, mirrors this nightmare scenario, one that whittles away personal freedoms, identifies those who pose a societal threat, and removes them from the general population, much like the Disappeared in Argentina (1974-1983) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_War), when right-wing death squads waged a campaign against left-wing opponents to crush dissent from autocratic rule. And all in the name of creating a more stable society.

With razor-sharp precision, the play identifies the menace of authoritarian views of behaviour – in effect, the new Nazism – that is alive and well and thrives among us. It warns of the ease in which any government can introduce draconian measures to control its citizens, while betting on an anaesthetised public not to notice. Why worry about democratic freedoms when there are much more pressing concerns, such as the ending of Game of Thrones and the staged romances of contestants on Love Island.

The play begins on Christmas Day in a room drenched in the colour red, but rather than a festive air, the red conveys a sense of violence and blood; the space itself, the morbidity of an internment camp. Its sole occupant, a somewhat listless middle-aged Mr Dobbs (Drew McGurren), is reading a Superman comic book. The energetic Min (Zara Banks) breezes in with the chilling phrase ‘It’s only me’. She is replete with medication, thermometer and cheery banter. We recognise immediately that she is dangerous and in control of Mr Dobbs’ fate. Soon Dobbs is joined by a young, wiry Hodge (Mike Archer) who, unlike the placid Dobbs, is dissatisfied with his surroundings. He’d like a private room, abhors the colour red, demands a switch to blue, needs a pair of clean socks and orders a full English breakfast. Min delivers a croissant instead and a firm refusal to grant any of his requirements – for the moment that is – after all it is Christmas and the facility is short staffed. But where is this facility? Neither Dobbs nor Hodge can remember the route that took them there. They were both unconscious on arrival.

We learn the men are volunteers partaking in a scientific experiment that will ‘revolutionise the world’, according to the enthusiastic Min. And there are substantial benefits. Dobbs was referred by his doctor to alleviate his depression, and Hodge, who admits to robbing a post office, will receive a drastically reduced prison sentence once the experiment is complete.

It is a credit to Oliver, as writer and director of the piece, that the audience is let in on the secret from the beginning. Much like the first confrontation between the cold-blooded Nurse Ratched and the flirtatious McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, we sense it is ‘Game Over’ for Hodge the moment he meets Min. And games they do play.

Although Experiment 150 drives a powerful message, it craftily introduces a segment of sinister game playing, replete with dance music, blow-up doll and dire consequences. An intriguing turning point is the moment when the docile Dobbs, suffering from the violent side-effects of medication, demands answers about his treatment and his fate. Min recognises it as a moment to re-establish autocratic rule, but you’ll have to see the play to appreciate her tactics.

Apart from its fine writing and directing, Experiment 150 benefits from the talents of lighting designer Jordan and its deftly talented cast. Archer, Banks and McGurren cannot be praised enough in pacing the shifts from seriousness to comedy, while reacting to each character’s truth to ensure the integrity of the play.

Experiment 150 is proof that deadly serious topics can also be downright fun. Don’t miss it.

5 Star Rating

Review by Loretta Monaco

It’s Christmas Day and prisoner Hodge has volunteered for an experiment at an unknown destination. Sharing a room with schoolteacher Dobbs is going to be a real challenge and Min, their female supervisor, is determined to make Experiment 150 a major success that will transform all their lives. No matter what the cost.

Urban Wolves Theatre Company Presents
Experiment 150 by Bryan Oliver
At The White Bear, Kennington
Box Office: 03330124963
Until Saturday, 25 May 2019


1 thought on “Urban Wolves Theatre Company Presents Experiment 150 | Review”

  1. So very sorry to have missed this play. It sounds as though it needs to be on TV to wake up the wider, “anaesthetised” audience. Any chance of a re-run later?

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