Skip to main content

Carthage Must Be Destroyed

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
If international politics were run by more drunkards, as one character in Alan Wilkins’ new play suggests, no wars would be necessary. This is one of a stream of epigrams punched out the mouths of Rome’s most powerful men in this bloodily intelligent piece of imagined history. Taking the real-life backdrop of Rome’s third assault on Carthage between 149 and 146BC, its obvious metaphor for contemporary war-mongering becomes a serious exploration of the erotics of power, the like of which hasn’t been seen since Howard Barker’s grander works.

In a bath house where men talk business in the guise of pleasure, flamboyant mandarin Gregor toys with ambitious rookie Marcus inbetween eyeing up the would-be poet nephew of elder statesman Cato, a man shrewd enough to recognise the economic capital to be made from contrived conflict. With potential sex scandals blighting his cause, however, he exiles Gregor to Carthage itself, while his own rhetoric goes for the popular vote.

Wilkins’ play at various times points to The Falklands, Vietnam, Iraq’s WMD myth and the entire New Labour folly. Electrifyingly played on the reflective gloss of Kenny Miller’s set, Lorne Campbell’s production reveals a fantastically ambitious treatise on the fickle nature of power itself. As Cato, Tony Guilfoyle is a tightly-coiled moralist, and Damian Lynch’s Marcus an increasingly smart operator. Sean Campion’s Gregor, though, is a remarkable study of one man’s rise and fall. From brazen self-serving hedonist to a gibbering shambles of his former glory, his late grasp of morality becomes a symbol of how empires totter. In Wilkins’ world, Carthage may be destroyed, but this Rome burns with vigorous intent.

The Herald, May 1st 2007



Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…


Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …