Friday, November 13, 2020

'Abion' by Mike Bartlett

13 November 2020

Last weekend we finally got around to watching the live recording of Mike Bartlett’s play ‘Albion’, which was broadcast in the summer as part of the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine season. Mike Bartlett is a really interesting writer who explores a wide variety of dramatic formats and styles. He is perhaps best known for his TV dramas ‘Doctor Foster’ (written in the form of a Jacobean revenge tragedy) and its recent companion series ‘Life’, starring Victoria Hamilton. But I have also enjoyed his writing for the stage, including: ‘Charles III’– a modern Shakespearean history play, written entirely in blank verse (reviewed here in January 2015); ‘An Intervention’ – an unconventional two-hander looking at what happens when you hate your best friend (reviewed here in April 2014); and his contemporary version of ‘Medea’ by Euripides, starring Rachael Stirling (reviewed here in November 2012). ‘Albion’ is, as the title suggests, a state-of-the-nation play which uses the allegory of a very traditional English country garden to address issues raised by Brexit. In the Almeida Theatre production, directed by Rupert Goold, Victoria Hamilton plays a woman who has purchased her childhood home and plans to restore the garden to its original Victorian design. It can be enjoyed as a darkly comic family drama about personal grief, but you can also see the relationship between the family and the local community – now excluded from what had previously been a communal garden – as a commentary on the UK’s departure from the European Union. The action is all set in the garden and has the feel of an Alan Ayckbourn play but with underlying connections more reminiscent of Tom Stoppard. It takes on some unsettling themes but is also very funny, and brilliantly acted with a stunning central performance by Victoria Hamilton.

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