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Review: The Response, by John Hales, rehearsed reading at The Seagull Theatre, Lowestoft, and selected other venues

PUBLISHED: 13:12 08 February 2018 | UPDATED: 13:12 08 February 2018

The Response, a rehearsed reading of a new play by John Hales. Photo: Charlie Ketchen

The Response, a rehearsed reading of a new play by John Hales. Photo: Charlie Ketchen

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This new play, written and directed by Lowestoft theatre stalwart John Hales, opens against the backdrop of the England vs Sweden football match in 2006. A British muslim and Doctor, Imad is taken hostage by four white English extremists. They don’t align themselves to any far right group in particular, infact they think they are being un-ideological.

The Response, a rehearsed reading of a new play by John Hales. Photo: Charlie Ketchen The Response, a rehearsed reading of a new play by John Hales. Photo: Charlie Ketchen

Driven by a twisted sense of revenge for the 7/7 bombings, they capture and kidnap Imad, believing him to be The Dark Prince - the fifth bomber. They talk of murder, of hate, of being ignored and fighting to get “their” country back.

The first half this piece has a real Pinteresque feel to it. Is it reality? Are the torturers figments of Imad’s worse nightmare? As a muslim post 7/7 he has to fight for his faith and dignity. His captors fit into an equally ignorant, thuggish stereotype mirroring the radicals they despise. His arguments inevitably fall on deaf ears.

Hale creates a strong and muscular dialogue for all his characters which is real highlight. The swearing sounds lyrical as well as the humour which punctures and jars giving a moment’s respite from the relentless tension.

The Response, a rehearsed reading of a new play by John Hales. Photo: Charlie KetchenThe Response, a rehearsed reading of a new play by John Hales. Photo: Charlie Ketchen

A work in progress, the performances are all free and has outstanding actors involved under Hale’s direction. It’s great to see East Anglia based actors Reece Ritchie, Mark Finbow and Charlotte McGuiness alongside Mark Wingett, Avin Shah and Jennier Shah. James Andrew Cutler is particularly compelling as Gahzi.

Shah as Imad says “If you fight fire with fire everybody burns” and by the second half the frenzy surrounding the siege goes up a unbearable notch reiterating the line is between ‘US’ and ‘THEM’ can easily disappear, ironically demonstrating in the most unbearable way how depressingly alike we all are and that everyone is one stumble away from falling down the rabbit hole.

Hale presents no smug moral high ground here, but offers chinks of light we ache to bathe in only to see them dim before our eyes.

Jackie Montague

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