Writer/Director: Robert Gilbert
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
Fringe Rating: Five Stars
Written and directed by Robert Gilbert, ‘By Order Of Ignorance’ is an exceptional piece of theatre. Direct and honest, the play is set in the modern day, a time where political awareness is being eroded by a relentless reality TV shows.
The first of two short prologues introduces the character of Jeff: a sexually confused and socially aware reality TV presenter, played by John Edon. The second shows US soldier Davey (Carl Vorwerk) discussing his having just taken part in a brutal homophobic attack. Neither character is particularly sympathetic, and during these vignettes a mysterious third character crouches at the front of the stage huddled over a laptop.
The play begins on the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, and brings the polarised characters together when they both stumble upon a brain-damaged Bristolian terrorist called Mo (David Hutchinson). Davey and Jeff try reasoning, begging and even threatening Mo, but he is hell-bent on blowing himself up and taking the two of them with him. During this hostage situation each of the characters reveals more about their background and dissatisfaction with their lives, neatly highlighting social and political issues without losing the dramatic tension. The simple set and staging is effective, using multimedia in the form of TVs placed either side of the stage to highlight the importance and influence of the media on the nation’s political consciousness
Throughout the piece all three actors give impassioned, commanding, and dedicated performances. Hutchinson is outstanding as the indoctrinated insurgent; his portrayal sympathetic and multifaceted as Mo struggles to understand and cope with a world that is ‘too big’ for him. Meanwhile Edon gives a stand out performance as Jeff, a man shown to be every inch the armchair socialist – passionate about politics but failing to tackle even the conflicts in his own life. Vorwerk has great intensity and handles his problematic character with skill – Davey is after all the least likeable character, but genuinely has the strength of his own conviction and is ultimately the most honest.
Gilbert’s bold, challenging script raises some uncomfortable questions about modern society, refusing to shy away from addressing the bigotry that still exists and the assumptions we make about others based on race and sexuality. It also addresses issues around mental health and the manipulation of vulnerable people, in this case to a sinister end. Ultimately it encourages both the characters and audience to question their ideas of blame, guilt, and personal accountability.
Spaces @ Royal College of Surgeons, 11-15 Aug, 11:45 (13:15), £7:00 (£6:00).