Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 29 November 2011

New World Order

Shoreditch Town Hall ⋄ 16th November - 11th December 2011

Promenading Pinter.

Daniel B. Yates

Shoreditch Town Hall sits as a hulking civic monument to some past civil order, smack in the deregulated hedonism of the city’s playground.  Occasionally occupying itself with media functions it largely sits empty, the grey stone Georgian splendour of the exterior hides peeling churning bowels. It’s into here that Hydrocracker, with backing from the Barbican have transferred their peripatetic Pinter, a choppy and brutish promenade through some of his later political plays, which while amping up the confrontation conspicuously fails to make anything new of these powerful texts.

We start in one of the ornate upper rooms, frisked by militarised police figures, and handed a visitor ID which are referred to as “papers” throughout the evening.  Here Press Conference is delivered by the gravelly suave Hugh Ross, a well-groomed ministerial figure who appears throughout in a variety of guises.  As we are frogmarched down into the decaying basements, shades of past revelations concerning the treatment of detainees by the our governments fall loomingly round every corner.  One guard, a diminutive woman in implacable shades, juts a finger and hip with studied nods to Lynddie England.  As we file out of a room, leaving a hooded man in orange overalls to the tender evils of his interrogators, a stereo is switched and a thrash industrial version of Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out of my Head chases us like banal fog.

Elsewhere in these pages Jeff James has argued that these plays “force the audience to look at torture, and challenge them to dismiss it as something irrelevant that only happens to other people.”  And while New World Order aims for this de-othering of torture it’s only partly successful.  Certainly the conception is immaculate and these late plays, so full of crystal violence, blossom in the promenade environment.  Here Pinter’s horror is amplified, and if he was ever outstripped by gangster film in the violence-stakes, his sheer calculating viciousness is here returned to its full dimensions.  It creates complicated reactions in the audience, and the room proliferates with identifications – with the captors’ power, contempt at the abject misery of the victims, wide eyes and lip-biting resentment, faint simmerings of anger.

And yet on the other hand New World Order has little to say bar this amplification.  We see hopelessly abused bodies, we are grabbed and told frequently to line-up against walls, we are split up multiple times, left in dank rooms with guards that bark  – and yet we are left as curiously impotent onlookers, unfurnished with whys and wherefores, without sufficient means of identifying the situation, or identifying with anyone in it, beyond the raw operations of power.  The moves to recontextualise fall slightly flat, the decision to stick only with Pinter’s words creates a world too sparse to be recognised, the BBC signs that hang around the press conference microphones struggle to make their point. Finally we are left with something like a totalitarian Erehwon, vague and upside down, while the promenade becomes an unsatisfactory halfway house  – conjoining what are essentially disparate pieces in a manner too bitty to constitute a journey, at the same time muddying the individuality of Pinter’s enduringly depraved snowflakes.

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Daniel B. Yates

Educated by the state, at LSE and Goldsmiths, Daniel co-founded Exeunt in late 2010. The Guardian has characterised his work as “breaking with critical tradition” while his writing on live culture &c has appeared in TimeOut London, i-D Magazine, Vice Magazine, and elsewhere. He lives and works in London E8, and is pleasant.

New World Order Show Info


Directed by Ellie Jones

Written by Harold Pinter

Cast includes Richard Hahlo, Hugh Ross.

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