|Photo by Bob Seary|
THE ANGRY BRIGADE, is a British play by James Graham. It is a two act play. The Angry Brigade are a collective, a far left terrorist group, active in the late 60's. They were responsible for a series of 25 bombings. Their bombs caused mainly property damage, no deaths and only one minor injury. It caused the British Government, in 1971, to set up a specialist group - The Bomb Squad - within the Metropolitan Police to investigate these crimes of terror. It led to the development of a new investigative methodology to detect and arrest these terrorists of the streets of London. This Brigade were all arrested and imprisoned. The British Government were well prepared for the consequent IRA activity in London when it erupted.
In the first act of the play we begin at the formation of the team central to the investigation and then follow through, discover the procedural 'rails', that will formulate the investigative pattern of action. We meet Smith (Davey Segale), the appointed leader, Henderson (Madeline Withington), Parker (Sonya Kerr) and Morris (Benjamin Balte), and watch them coalesce over the period into a team with a mission that does its job and in doing so, also, unleashes them selves from the strict conventions of their own tight worlds into looser and contemporary revellers of the mores of the British 1970's.
This first act is more matters of fact than expansive insight that has a rather dulling effect on concentration, aided by the acting, generally, been permitted by the Director, Alex Byrant-Smith, to indulge in characteristics rather than in development of character and their arc.
During the interval the stage has been re-configured (Set and Costume Design, Sallyanne Facer). We had been in the basement setting at the Metropolitan Police for the first act of the play and in the second act of the play, a different number of locations, spread across a nearly bare stage. (Acoustically, the open stage hampers, sometimes, the clarity of text - it has an echo chamber affect.) The Lighting is by Michael Schell and there is a robust Sound Design by Glenn Braithwaite.
In the second act we now meet members of the Angry Brigade. We see the events from their, the young terrorists point of view. This is a keen strategy from the writer, Mr Graham, and as the principal four actors of the first act also carry the majority of the responsibility of the verbal action in the second act it causes us to imaginative engage with the actors in a very different way. Davey Seagle takes on John, Madeline Withington takes on Anna, Benjamin Balte plays Jim and Sonya Kerr is Hilary. We are surprised to understand that only one of the Brigade are from working class roots, most of them are disillusioned youngsters of the bourgeoisie.Mrs Thatcher must answer for her policies.
This company of artists have been imbued by their Director, Mr Bryant-Smith, with an energetic passion and commitment to the integrity of the writer and his intensions. This is the stirring, galvanising element of the night. These actors believe in what they have taken on and wish us to observe the relevancy to our own times of protest. There is a supporting cast that help sweep the night along: Nicholas Papademetriou, Kelly Robinson and Will Bartolo.
This is an interesting play by one of Britain's most politically engaged writers. His home country have responded eagerly to his out put. THE ANGRY BRIGADE was written in 2014 and is a lesser work than his spectacular award winning, THIS HOUSE (2012) and his play about Rupert Murdoch and his takeover of The Sun newspaper: INK. Only 37 Mr Graham has written some 22 plays and, as well, for television - QUIZ (2019) - and film. He, also, wrote the Broadway Book for the musical FINDING NEVERLAND. Prolific is one word. Talented is another. One is grateful that the New Theatre has curated THE ANGRY BRIGADE, for us Sydney siders to be able to engage with his work. One does long to see INK., THIS HOUSE, and perhaps (I haven't read it), LABOUR OF LOVE - a prize winning comedy.