Pity Descends Into Pandemonium At Royal Court Theatre

Pity, The Royal Court Theatre ★★☆☆☆

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Pity Descends Into Pandemonium At Royal Court Theatre Pity, The Royal Court Theatre 2
Photo: Helen Murray

Following his acclaimed debut in 2014, Rory Mullarkey’s new play Pity sets out to ask “if things really are getting worse and if we care”. The piece tells the story of a day in the life of a nameless man as the world rapidly falls into war, disease and decay around him. Starting with a bomb in a department store, a feuding tribalism develops that sees warring factions ruthlessly kill each other for no real reason at all. Add to this a pandemic, cannibalism, a visiting ghost and a whirlwind marriage and the result is on-stage pandemonium.

Photo: Helen Murray

The meandering, directionless plot is not engaging and the stated purpose of challenging us to think about if “things” are in fact getting worse doesn’t even come close to landing. Despite this, the writing is witty and inventive, giving plenty of quick laughs and a couple of funny monologues. It really falls to the director and cast to save the day. One gets the sense that director Sam Pritchard, acknowledging he couldn’t polish the proverbial, decided to roll it in as much glitter as he could find. No penny is left unspent: endless pyrotechnics, the Fulham Brass Band, on-stage tanks, a real ice cream stand, the lot. A talented cast appear to have jumped on board with gusto with Paul Bentall and Siobhán McSweeney giving particularly strong comedic performances across a number of roles.

Photo: Helen Murray

The end result is a sort of pantomime for adults that, although entertaining to begin with, fails to keep momentum as the thinness of the plot becomes apparent. Despite the quality of the cast, after the fifth or sixth pyrotechnic display the end of the world comes as welcome relief.

Pity, The Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS. Tickets £12-14, until 11 August 2018.

Last Updated 20 July 2018