Mikhail Durnenkov’s The War Has Not Yet Started (translated by Noah Birkstead-Breen) comprises of 11 short stories that aim to reflect some of modern societies’ most pressing issues. Theatre Royal Plymouth bring you an insight into several stereotypical characters and each of their personal battles. Durnenkov addresses issues of adultery, anxiety, fake news and domestic violence. The props, set and costume are minimal and the engagement of the piece relies only on Gordon Anderson’s superb direction and the performances of the incredibly talented cast.
Each separate story addresses a different social issue, ranging from the hilarious to the harrowing. The multi-roling is subtle, slick and impressive. There are no huge physicality changes or significant alterations in voice quality, but somehow the three performers transform the space and take the audience with them on each individual journey. Andy Purves’ fantastic lighting also helps this. Each intricacy in the lighting neatly shapes the mood of the scene. The atmosphere is ingeniously created in each scene by a combination of intelligent spacing, snappily delivered dialogue and most of all, immensely creative writing. The writing is extremely reliable throughout; its snappy and sophisticated style leaves the audience engaged and entertained from start to finish. It also has hilarious one-liners thrown in that help lighten some of the heavier scenes. The show certainly crescendos towards the end and climaxes at the final scene which is the strongest and most severe in terms of subject matter.
The cast in this charming three-hander are superb. Hannah Britland (Lovesick) has an engrossing quality on stage that oozes clarity and confidence. Sarah Hadland (Miranda) is as quirky as she is hilarious. Her comic timing is always spot on and this translates from TV to stage fantastically well. Mark Quartly’s performance is exceptional. His emotional range is stunning and his characterisation is subtle, sincere and at times scary. The cast work fantastically as an ensemble, bouncing off each other beautifully and connecting the text with strong performances across the board.
At times the production wavers in terms of pace due to the shortness of each story. The structure is sometimes a little laborious and the premise of the production loses its way a little when the stakes are not as high in a scene. Nevertheless, each story provokes thought and opinion and for the most part, the subject matters are all interesting and relatable. The style of the piece could easily be grating, but due to fantastic direction, captivating lighting and some superb acting, it is very intriguing to watch. It runs at 75 minutes and the amount of content that is slotted into that time is staggering. There is rarely a dull moment and you are certainly treated to a feast of intrigue and contextual relevance. Not to be missed.
The War Has Not Yet Started is playing at The Southwark Playhouse until 10 February 2018
Photo: Steve Tanner