'the war has not yet started' review or 'Let's go over the top.'

'the war has not yet started', Mikhail Durnenkov
Southwark Playhouse, 19th January 2017
Written for Time Out 



It’s hard to escape a vague feeling of dread at the moment. It’s there when we switch on the news, scan social media or browse Netflix. Ominous imaginings hang heavy on the horizon and Mikhail Durnenkov’s stark collection of sketches (half of a Theatre Royal Plymouth rep season at Southwark Playhouse alongside ‘The Here and This and Now’) skilfully taps into this cloying feeling that all is not right in the world.
In each of the skewed scenarios in ‘The War Has Not Yet Started’, directed with clipped restraint by Gordon Anderson, something terrible lurks at the edges of things. The streets outside teem with people with burning eyes and dead souls. Sexual perversion and the threat of violence underpin the most ordinary of encounters. A devastating war is being reported on the news or eagerly trialled in a computer game.
Everything about ‘The War Has Not Yet Started’ – the writing, atmosphere, staging and performances – is subtly executed. Bob Bailey’s domestic set is carpeted and cosy, except for an overturned lamp here or stray pile of bricks over there. All three actors keep their performances low-key and nimble and there are a few flashes of hope (particularly when Hannah Britland is involved) that feel cheering yet weirdly sad too.  
There are inevitable dips. The weaker scenarios suck the energy out of the show and the scene changes, overlaid with quirky music and lighting states, have more dramatic texture than the scenes proper. But this is a quietly unsettling production – a bit like a ‘Black Mirror’ for the theatre, but with no option to press pause.

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