This evening I watched Barbarians at the Young Vic in London. Barbarians is about 3 boys who have just left school in the 70s, and how their friendship shapes their lives. I came to watch this for my dissertation for AH Drama, and had read the script prior to seeing it. I went in, not sure what I was expecting, to be greeted by three young men from the 70s.
They were wandering around the space, walking between the audience members either looking at them intently or completely ignoring them, as it was Avenue staging. Then they started speaking. The change of lighting the only difference to indicate the beginning of the play. The set was very interesting. I loved it. It encompassed the whole space. Plywood and building wood, everywhere, with stairs going in between the audience members. Creating a desolate and trapped atmosphere working in lieu with the lighting. The lighting was very good. The dramatic changes created a suitable tone, and showed the isolation of them individually and as a group. The acting was brilliant. Amazingly intense. As an audience you were extremely close to the actors and could see their muscles tensing and relaxing. It was extremely intimate and raw. I was fully immersed into the play, purely by Fisayo Akinade, Alex Austin and Brian Vernel’s acting. They interacted with the audience throughout the piece and got really up close and personal. The show was darkly comedic and upsettingly still extremely relevant, working well with Liz Stevenson’s directing to break the fourth wall. With the avenue staging you are able to see the audience’s reaction opposite you to the racist and sexist slurs said throughout the play.
The whole piece had this brilliant rhythm to it, with little to none actual plot, and actually worked. The auditory factor to the piece was brilliant, very punk rock, putting the feel of anarchy in the air. The music added a playful tone to this dark piece, the volume, combined with the genre and the lighting, made you want to get up and dance with them across the stage. And throughout the interval they continued to play football and crowd background noise – adding to the whole immersion thing they were doing. The actors entered the space again, before the interval had finished, again creating the idea we were sitting with them outside Wembley. The last act was just amazing. I know I’ve said that more than enough times, but it really was a good show. The last act was funny, but intense. Intimate and yet absolutely terrifying at the same time. With the stylised transition into it, already gave the audience an inkling that a lot of time had passed, provided by the characters only costume changes throughout the show. The direction by Stevenson was brilliant – paralleling the characters and getting the rhythm of the writing, that could have dawdled, perfect.
The overall effect of the piece, left me wanting more by all of the cast and crew. They produced a brilliantly comedic piece, that was horrifyingly relevant. With a dark and anarchic atmosphere, and raw acting, it made me want to go destroy society when I left the theatre. A truly political piece. It was described as Punk waiting for Godot by The Telegraph, but I disagree. It was so much better. It left me with a feeling I can’t quite describe, like theatre should.
“We will not be ignored. They’ll talk about us, write about us, hate us.”