The Park Theatre is its own boss – it seems to do whatever the hell it wants and does all of it well. Each new play eats alive the 200 faces before it with new statements and new thought provocations. Each stuffs the world as we know it into a kaleidoscope, warping it into something newly shocking and affirmative. Each is completely different from the last, but all the same in the way they prod and goad us into thinking about ourselves, our ideologies and the value of people in general. The Park even manages to do that far more unpretentiously than my description. Most of all, I have found everything I’ve ever seen there to be daring. Dangerously daring – teetering right on the cusp of going that step too far. But The Park, being its own boss, owns it. Usually. True to form, the Hurling Rubble double whammy does exactly that. The bravest move of all is their decision to present the evening as two separate shows (Hurling Rubble at the Sun and Hurling Rubble at the Moon) instead of two halves of the same story.
The bare-faced cheek of trying to pull off this kind of move is brave. If you’re asking punters to buy two tickets to see two sides of the same coin, you’d better make damn sure that each one stands righteously enough on its own without relying on the other for a leg-up. As it happens, I don’t think that either half is dependent on the other; but I do absolutely think that you have to see both. It is an out-and-out necessity: without both you lose an entire dimension of audiences’ understanding.
Each play presents polar ends of the same spectrum. Hurling Rubble at the Sun is about a boy – a normal one – called T (Ragevan Vasan), who has found himself angry and then vulnerable to suffocation by extremism. A boy who becomes a terrorist, in a plot that demands an empathy, is only possible if we are enabled to understand why. Hurling Rubble at the Moon provides part of what makes that understanding possible. It shows us a boy of a similar age, Skef (Jim English) whose extremism takes a different form: one of violent and ceaseless racism. He inhumanely smashes in the cars and the heads of absolutely anyone of a different nationality, colour or heritage, before becoming a suited and booted member of the BNP. His motives are wispy: the violently racist influence of his hooligan father (Mark Cameron); losing his job at the sacking hands of someone who happens to be Asian; and the events of 11 September 11 all cast an ignorance-tinted shadow over an entire religion and race of people. This puts T’s behaviour into a perspective I never thought I’d be able to interpret. I’ll even go out on a limb and say I felt more sympathy for the terrorist than I did for the racist. Here’s why…
The fact that both plays were written by the same fella, Avaes Mohammad, makes for a profound perspective that is in no way biased, but that is wholly personal. The styles of each are completely different, not just in terms of plot, but also in terms of pace and structure. Hurling Rubble at the Sun consists of three scenes that are insightfully slow and necessarily uneventful. We are just left to watch the life of T, the dynamic of his home life and his relationship with his mother. It is incredibly natural – another window looking onto someone’s everyday reality, in their community, in their culture. Perhaps its relaxed naturalism comes from the fact that it is a similar community and culture to Mohammed’s own – it’s just life. The calmness and the subtlety used to build up relationships simply in passing makes the scene in which T finds himself on a bus with a rucksack, a promise and a bomb on 7 July 2005 utterly bewildering. The overt sense of shock is underlined by a blinkered innocence. I found myself initially underwhelmed by it, but the power of it crept up on me with the help of Hurling Rubble at the Moon.
The second work is a play that is altogether more aggressive. By my count there are thirteen short scenes that come at you like bullets, violent and indirect, pacey and shocking. It is equally as real as its counterpart, made particularly apparent through a bellicose and strong performance by Mark Cameron as Dean, Skef’s returned Dad. Jez Bond’s direction is brutal and the last five minutes are numbingly shocking, leaving me in a speechless haze for hours afterwards.
You need to see both – I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. But if you’re just going to see one, make it the second.
Hurling Rubble at the Sun and Hurling Rubble at the Moon is playing at the Park Theatre until 6 June. For more information and tickets, visit the Park Theatre website. Photo by Mark Douet