Review: Cry Havoc
Directed by Pamela Schermann
Runs at Park 90 until 20th April 2019
Bloody and bruised, a protagonist staggers onto the stage. He struggles to smoke, transfixing the audience from the onset. Immediately we are drawn into playwright, Tom Coash’s exposing and moving world. Cry Havoc is a tapestry of intricate story-telling and truly engaging, intimate performances. A funny, heartfelt navigation between two opposing cultures and notions of dislocated identity. Mohammed El-Masri (James El-Sharaway) is central to this fight. His character must endure the dichotomy of being Muslim and homosexual inside an Egyptian totalitarian system – a true battle of faith and self. This is then further complicated by Mohammed’s partner, an English poet with a hero complex. This character, Nickolas Field (Marc Antolin), openly admits that “The language of love is hard to translate.” This line is a microcosm of the play’s heart. It alludes to questions such as: When cultures collide, how do we as individuals show, understand and value love? And at what cost?
Throughout the show, gorgeous sound design by Julian Starr masks the transitions, enabling the flow. The sound also helps subtly drive the undertones of the piece. The plot focuses on how ‘undesirable’ people are forced to wait and jump through more hurdles in order to get a visa.
The concept of being undesirable was embraced visually in Cry Havoc through the government official encouraging Nickolas, the English protagonist, to strip down so that he appears more vulnerable. Ms Nevers (played spectacularly by Karren Winchester) becomes a symbol for English bureaucracy and rule showing beautiful brutality in her treatment of him. Their first scene features amazing awkwardness and holding of tension by the actors. Truly exquisite. The detailed performances are reflected further by the costume; Ms Nevers’ black shiny shoes juxtapose against Nickolas’ quirky spotty socks and tanned shoe ensemble. In fact, the skill of the acting performances across the whole cast is consistent, accenting clear character development and journeys.
My only qualm with this piece was that at points the pacing of the writing began to lag, but the poignancy, parodying of English culture and well-crafted characters mean one can overlook that. Cry Havoc is a mesmerizing portrayal of how shame of self can manifest into violence. Hauntingly beautiful and honest, this show will leave you reflecting on the an underlying relevance to our current British climate and treatment of different versions of love.
Review © Kirsty Blewett 2019
Photo credit Lidia Crisafulli