B at the Royal Court: A play about the generational divide that fails to ignite

Melissa York
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Sarah Niles, Danusia Samal and Aimee-Ffion Edwards

Described by the New Yorker as “an authentic genius of the theatre”, this is the first time Chilean writer Guillermo Calderon has debuted a play in London. And it’s particularly relevant, as B largely concerns itself with the generational divide at a time when it’s top of our own political agenda.

All the action – well, conversation – takes place in a basic warehouse that’s temporarily occupied by teenage radicals Alejandra and Marcela. They’re hiding out there while they wait for older revolutionary Jose Miguel to make them a bomb to plant outside a bank in the middle of the night. But when he arrives, it’s designed to kill and the girls have second thoughts. They asked for a noise bomb, “just noise, so they can fear us and love us and join us.” But Jose doesn’t just want to get attention, he wants to start a war.

A discussion ensues about the nature of revolution and violence and what these concepts mean to different generations. But while there’s a lyrical beauty to the prose, its poeticism is too abstract to make for interesting philosophy. There’s a lot of repetition – notably of ‘cow’ and ‘cheese’ which is used instead of bomb in case they’re overheard – but the joke gets old fast.

Each character gets a monologue in which a glimmer of truth emerges, before being sucked away again into the vague conversational abyss. B is oddly lacking in tension for a play that revolves around a ticking bomb, and for that reason, it fails to ignite.

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