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Red, Black and IgnorantBond still biting back

Legendary playwright Edward Bond’s words spring to life in Red, Black and Ignorant at the Cock Tavern theatre’s brilliant revival.

Early in his 60-year career, he was attacked as the ultimate, degenerate, vicious and debased playwright by the Royal Court Theatre.

His mission today is to make theatre that measures up to that of the ancient Greeks, Chekhov and Ibsen. He writes: “We have no drama: only the trickling sump of theatre …We must make drama but have no stage.”

Bond is concerned, above all, with grappling with what makes us human – the beauty, the hunger, the love and the horror. In Red, Black and Ignorant, the Monster (Andrew Lewis) is a charred and bloodied survivor of a terrible fire, but his account of how a child is welcomed into the world and nurtured is remarkably tender. Lewis’ charismatic performance sustains this totally political and concentrated play.

The action is accompanied by the Monster’s own story, trying to piece together the pieces of his life like a jig-saw puzzle. Melanie Ramsay is moving as the archetypal mother/wife figure. Bond’s classical approach to characters is taken on board by the younger actors - Martha Dancy as the teenage girl and Alex Farrow as the boy.

Red, Black and Ignorant

We see them both as individuals as well as archetypes who reveal the destruction by a powerful state which has reduced life to something bought and sold like any other commodity. Russell Anthony acts the figure of state authority with conviction.

Director Maja Milatovic-Ovadia has risen to the challenge of reviving this play for the first time since it was originally performed at the Barbican Pit in 1984.

The power of Bond’s  stark but poetic vision of a post-holocaust dystopia is remarkably fresh and relevant to today’s political issues. The last performance is this Saturday.  

9 November 2010

Red, Black and Ignorant is at the Cock Tavern Theatre. Final performance is on Saturday 13 November
Photos: Richard Hubert Smith

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