On the one hand, it’s not surprising that Alexandra Badea’s play about the globalised modern era is called The Pulverised. Mashed-up monologues from four people around the world are woven together. They, like splintered beings, try to assemble or reassemble the fragments of their lives.
Much of the play is about the increased alienation of 21st-century city-living, amplified by the images of urban sprawls that appear in Nicolai Hart-Hansen’s projections. Each character’s story relates to their employment and the loneliness attached to it. After their speeches, the actors essentially shut down, almost as if they are being turned off, or placed on standby. Here, director Andy Sava gestures towards the dehumanisation of work forces and their almost literal evolution, or pulverization, into automatons.
And yet, on the other hand, Badea’s play is misnamed. The verb ‘to pulverize’ suggests powerful and resolute action, full of force and energy. It evokes a sense of irrevocable transformation, as something complete and whole is reduced to fractures or dust.
Yet Badea’s play is surprisingly stagnant. The formula of interspersed monologues continues until the end and very little changes in Sava’s direction. Without any sort of formal deconstruction or rupture, the dramatic intrigue becomes laboured. The individualised climactic realisations unfold in a predictable sequence, rendering them unsatisfying and almost futile. Yes, perhaps the point is that these are the already atomized, and are therefore snapshots of the forlorn; except the ritualistic tearing away of Hart-Hansen’s design suggests some sort of transformation.
Their stories do offer some rich imagery and poignancy, and the actors do a commendable job in conveying them. At times cliched, the narratives are admirably diverse in their world-view and highlight the wide-ranging and sometimes contradictory experiences of individuals. The stories are strongest in their detail, and resonate during episodes of crisis. Switching between video conversations with his family and a woman with a sexually suggestive handle, Richard Corgan’s Quality Assurance Manager shows sheer desperation for human contact, as well as a profound sense of disorientation. It’s a moment of honesty that rings true of the world in which we live.
The Pulverised is at the Arcola Theatre until May 27th. For more details, click here.