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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Royal Court Theatre  Autumn 2017

While the rest of the world worries about there being so many threatening terrorists out there, Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderon wonders why there aren't more or, rather, why there aren't more that are successful and effective. 

And he finds his answer in the realisation that, for all their political commitment, would-be terrorists are just very imperfect little people, sometimes comically and sometimes pathetically so. 

Marcela and Alejandra are the only remaining members of a cell, all the rest of whom are in prison, having been caught setting off noisy but not particularly destructive bombs. 

They've contracted with freelance bomb maker Jose Miguel for another, but things start going wrong from the start. The first half of this 100-minute play is almost a Three Stooges farce, as they bumble their way around. 

They can't remember which cover story to use with the neighbour who keeps wandering in at inconvenient moments, they can't remember which cover names they're using, and they can't remember their code word for the bomb and keep slipping into the dreaded B-word. 

They cover their faces to hide their identities but then have trouble understanding each other, and the bomb's need for a particularly personal ingredient generates embarrassment that almost scuttles the project. 

Just when you begin to wonder if they're even capable of being dangerous, they face the same question. The bomb maker announces that this one isn't just a bang-maker but a real people-killer, and suddenly the women aren't quite sure about the depth of their commitment. 

Each of the three plotters gets a self-justifying and self-defining monologue, and each proves to be driven by somewhat slighter and more personal motives than the political changes they pay lip service to. 

One was hurt by the death of a lover, one misses all her friends and wants to join them in prison, one has been a kind of terrorism tourist, trying out revolutions from Cuba to Angola to Sri Lanka. 

They are all such small people with such small passions that it is a wonder that they can pose much danger to the world at all, and yet they are such bumblers that they might very well do great harm if only by accident. 

Calderon's play, here in a smooth translation by William Gregory, offers a fresh picture of characters too often just stereotyped, and provides the opportunity for subtle and multi-levelled performances by Aimee-Ffion Edwards, Danusia Samai, Paul Kaye and Sarah Niles.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - B - Royal Court Theatre 2017  
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