Angry Brigade Blasts Into Bush Theatre

By Ben Venables Last edited 44 months ago
Angry Brigade Blasts Into Bush Theatre ★★★★☆ 4

Credit: Manuel Harlan

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

It's the early 70s and a crotchety commanding officer at Scotland Yard is receiving stencilled communiques threatening the establishment. Having not read French theorist Guy Debord, he has no idea why 'spectacles' might be a listed target. However, he does have the insight to know he's battling something far more dangerous than the violence coming his way — ideas. Enter young DS Smith to head a new secret unit of student-aged officers to better understand and close in on the revolutionary cell calling themselves The Angry Brigade.

James Graham's play has monster-sized ambition. It's ambitious in its number of characters, its vision, its themes and ideas, its high-speed going-on-twitchy pacing, its scene changes, its set-pieces, its length — and this list is by no means exhaustive. In this sense, the play is also a monster that munches its way through much of its own strengths — yet leaves enough leftover to recommend it. In particular, there's a knockout performance from the young cast of four, who play the whole array of characters with both skill and stamina.

The unit go from a bunch of buttoned-down, provincially-minded bores who fail to understand their quarry, to having a more open outlook via the help of drugs and debauchery. The Angry Brigade themselves are going in the opposite direction: with doubts, desires and haunting visions of childhood memories. The plot stretches credibility at times despite its basis in true events, but it's certainly a colourful journey and one that hits the heart as much as it hits the head.

Whether they're in Scotland Yard or a revolutionary cell, or committed to society's continuity or its overthrow, the young that populate this play are all still trying to make sense of the world. It gives them a troubling innocence, even when they may not be innocent at all.

The Angry Brigade runs at Bush Theatre until 13 Jun. 7.30pm. Tickets £15-£20. Londonist saw this play on a complimentary ticket.

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Last Updated 07 May 2015