Poulet Packs A Punch In Ravenhill's Sharp Satire
Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
Mark Ravenhill's Product is a one-person play about the trivialisation of politics and terrorism into the product of a Hollywood-style film script.
Olivia Poulet plays Leah, a film exec relentlessly pitching Mohammed and Me — a screenplay as flamboyantly bad as its title suggests. Leah reads this screenplay line-by-line — all peppered with her own 'insightful' script notes — to the actor she's attempting to entice for the female lead. However, the desired actor is clearly under no illusions and, we imagine, rolling her eyes at the screenplay's many levels of bullshit. It is part of Poulet's skill that she never needs an actor to play opposite her here. Delivering Leah's monologue with a restless Wily Loman-esque desperation, Poulet makes it easy to visualise the squirming discomfort of the second character.
Product is at its most interesting and engaging when exploring our human capacity to house contradictory attitudes. Within Mohammed and Me these are played out with a western woman falling in love with a Jihadi. The object of her desire is just that, an object of suspicion but also objectified by the animal lust felt towards the 'exoticism' she has projected onto him.
Some of the intentional erraticism of Leah's character and plot jumps in Mohammed and Me occasionally seem to bleed into the more careful pacing of Product as a whole. Furthermore, there is a slight flaw in its observations on Hollywood's manufactured take on script development. Though this is doubtless perfectly accurate it satirises a cliché, already too well known and well worn to make us think differently. Overall though, these are quibbles, and they don't detract too much from Product hitting its main target: our dangerous ability to package our complex three-dimensional world into a 2D caricature.
Product runs at Arcola Theatre until 23 May (not Sundays), 8pm. Tickets: £17/£12. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.
Last Updated 06 May 2015