Venue: Golden Goose Theatre. 146 Camberwell New Road, London SE5 0RR
Credits: By Edward Bond. Presented by Four Points Theatre.
Have I None
Susan Elkin | 26 Jan 2023 03:23am
Photo by Francesco Codardo
Edward Bond’s visceral, aggressive one act play may be 23 years old but it has lost none of its forceful oddness.
We’re in a dystopian 2077 whose bleakness makes Orwell’s 1984 seem quite cosy by comparison. Families, memories and photographs are illegal. Mass suicides are an everyday occurrence and the old cities are in ruins so depersonalised people are re-housed in regimented suburbs. Furniture is reduced to a government issue table and the right number of chairs which, incidentally, makes this play pretty simple to stage.
The Golden Goose is configured more of less in the round (seating on three sides) for this production and director Lewis Frost makes neat use of the space so that all the action feels pretty immediate although sight lines aren’t perfect from where I was sitting.
Sara (Abigail Stone) and Jams (Brad Leigh) are miserably, angrily, violently married and at the opening of the play she sits alone at the table plagued by knocking at the door which may or may not be real. Then her appalling husband, who works for the security service, arrives home and soon shows his true colours as a shouty bully while she screams back at him. They fight over things such who has sat on whose chair and who left the tap on – the absurdity is often funny.
Then the dynamic shifts at the arrival of the relatively insouciant Grit (Paul Brayward) who claims to be Sara’s brother and to have walked the length of the country to find her. Visitors are definitely off limits so that’s a cue for a lot more fury and distrust.
Stone is good at mood shifts: gleaming with unfettered rage in contrast to silent, glassy anxiety, for instance. Her dream scene is good too. She wears a blue robe to which rattly spoons are stitched. Then she reverses it to reveal bones sewn onto black fabric. Someone must have had fun creating that.
Leigh – who has played Grit in this play before – stresses the gritty nastiness but manages to temper it with a shred of vulnerability and fear so that the character is just about plausible. Brayward’s performance is distinguished by the quality of his active listening, especially when the other two are shouting at each other over his head.
Yes, Bond is a great original but there are echoes in this play. The knocking reminds me very much of the Porter in Macbeth and the misfired poisoning at the end is almost straight out of Hamlet.
Have I None is an interesting piece of drama but it’s relentless and I wasn’t sorry it runs 50 minutes rather than, say, a couple of hours.
First published by Sardines https://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/review/have-i-none/