Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Eleventh Capital

The military dictatorship in Burma is one of many repressive regimes around the world (and especially in South East Asia) that very rarely push their way into the European conciousness. Its encouraging then that the Royal Court has chosen to stage a play about the Burmese Junta's decision to shift the nations capital lock stock from Yangon (Rangoon) to a completely new city, Naypyidaw, in the middle of the country.

Alexandra Wood's the Eleventh Capital is based around the story of one civil servant who is forced to relocate to the new capital. He leavs his wife and children behind and is forcibly billeted on a local peasant couple whilst the new city is built. However, this faceless hero never appears. Instead his story is told through the conversations of others. The cleaning lady who overhears him begging not to be sent to the new capital, the colleagues who share his billet and suspect him because he smiles, the thieves who plot to take advantage of the family he left behind.

Natalie Abrahami's promenade staging complements the text well. The effect of having to peer around your fellow audience members heightens the sense that these are furtive conversations you are illicitly overhearing , and being forced (physically) behind barbed wire to watch the final scenes in the new capital reinforces the sense of the new authoritarian order that is being built.

The acting is competent, although as each character only has one scene you feel that there really isn't a lot for the actors to really get their teeth into. And that was my problem as well. The dialogue is well written (although rarely sparkles) and the conceit, and staging, interesting, but the plot is too oblique to really engage with. Still it has sparked me into coming home and googling about the current situation in Burma so I suppose at one level it has done its job.

At £15 its better value than much you will see in the West End, and although by no means great its probably worth catching just for novelty of a play with a message that doesn't preach and leaves you wanting to know more about the subject. I suspect we haven't heard the last of Ms Wood.


Blogger Joyce said...

Oooh, is it still on when I get back? I might just go.

5:35 pm  

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