WHAT price wonder…?
It’s hard to visualise a future for our children amid the current sayings of the tongue waggers and naysayers. But we need to take a relatively safe bet that future generations will still be worrying about whether they left the gas on. At this point it’s comforting to know that the earliest known form of stone writing, now translated after some four thousand years says simply: “Things are not what they were”. You can almost hear the sigh: “And another thing…”
Ugly Youth, Nick Huntington’s epic new production for King’s Ely, tells it like it might be, in a world that comes from the pen of chaos. Our offspring are controlled from birth, they will have a limited freedom outside an accepted norm and those who stray will be hunted down. Their breeding choices have been laid down by law, the celebration of successful pregnancy becomes a publicly televised reportage and the reasons to pop the corks are questionable. The world really has gone mad and the trip to hell in a handcart suddenly looks like a great day out.
None of this is true and we can’t see beyond what we’re going to have for lunch tomorrow but Huntington’s imagination runs screaming into the woods in a technicolor vapour of event and happening that chills the blood with its supposable veracity. It could come true: Big Brother will be born tomorrow; intercision is the way to separate us from our daemons; Alex and the droogs will drink moloko; we will power our vehicles with Red Bull.
Surging forward into dystopia’s breach are Arkin and Carrick. William Pinto as Arkin (“I operate alone”) is countered by the tenacity and claws of Carrick in a steaming performance by Paige Newell. Carrick knows that Arkin can help, if Arkin himself is prepared to accept the inevitable, that he can’t operate alone. Joining forces with the Fish – those rebels who have set themselves outside the law – their struggle to take on the domination of the Chippers is key to their future existence.
While the forests hide the risks of the Fish the world watches on in Truman Show fashion. The bland dominance of worldwide television has soaked the population in the worst possible smack of celebrity culture that offers colour but no content. Its shape shifts according to what those who control it want us to think and to see. It’s a dark place for all its verve, and in the hands of the Presenter – played with a sickly and ghastly depth by Roseanna Brear – it smears its viewers with untruths as if lies were the new belief.
Alex Judd’s original music provides a powerful structure for the work’s sparse architectural outlines: Thomas Scott as MD and keyboard and Ayala Gate on viola and flute haunt the work like ghosts, always there because you need them. Their role in the event’s success is inestimable.
Elric Doswell is unhinged as Zyler and utterly watchable; Pierre Taffara-Cox shows the despair we would all feel, surrounded by uncertainty, in the part of Scrote; Abigail Hughes is horribly believable as Adore, as is Isabel Duckworth as Delta. But there’s no right and wrong here since we’ve fallen into a blind new world and each and every performer has the right to be an inalienable part of a rampant and full-blooded success that owes all it possesses to its cast and crew, who own every unsightly part of it.
Once again, King’s Ely shows its flair and strength. Never frightened to break new ground, with the skilled determination to entertain at the top of the to-do list and the fiery enthusiasm of the myriad of talent that is often hard to contain within four walls, it reveals that while an imagined future may have its issues there are those, here, now, who would take it on. And who would win.