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Pandora review at Arcola Theatre London

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The tale of Pandora’s box has many interpretations and this innovative new play ambitiously attempts to embrace them all through tales of modern life.

Does the Greek legend vilify women? Explore the darker side of human nature? Or offer hope despite life’s horrors? Writer Jennie Buckman uses real-life women’s responses to the Pandora story as inspiration for a collection of interweaving narratives.

Her dramatisation is interspersed with filmed footage of the interviewees, vying for attention through a multimedia backdrop by video designer Michael Buckman.

At the heart of the play are some striking vignettes revolving around broken relationships, childhood abuse and the warmth of humanity in the darkest of circumstances.

Most painful is the story of Cleo (Sophie Stone), a young deaf girl, abused by her father (Brian Lonsdale) who, in his own childhood, we see as an equally powerless victim. Stone and Lonsdale offer arresting portrayals of these and other characters, while all of the cast are impressively versatile in a variety of memorable roles.

Ultimately, the play’s breadth of scope and multitude of narratives makes it impossible for Buckman to provide a central dramatic thrust or clear thematic conclusion.

While she manages to continuously subvert our opinions of her delicious characters in a way that is compelling and insightful, there’s a feeling this is a play that has suffered from trying to embrace the voices of too many authors. Consequently, the questions it raises remain unanswered.

Production Information

Arcola Theatre, London, May 18-June 12

Jennie Buckman
Alex Clifton
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
Cast includes
Kay Bridgeman, Jonathan Livingstone, Brian Lonsdale, Sophie Stone, Brigid Zengeni
Running time
2hrs 15mins

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