The War Has Not Yet Started review at Drum Theatre, Plymouth – ‘hilarious and startling’
Russian playwright Mikhail Durnenkov says of his own play, The War Has Not Yet Started that he wanted “to create a testament to everything which is happening to us today.” Which is a tall order for a show which lasts around an hour and half. But under Michael Fentiman’s direction, the production pulls its threads tautly together, making from them something tangible and very powerful.
The play is composed of 12 vignettes that can be placed in any order. They are well-managed by Fentiman, balancing the light and shade. There could be any number of actors performing the numerous roles, but in this particular production there are just three; David Birrell, Tamzin Griffin and Joshua James. All three performances are dazzlingly intense. James’ performance, in particular, is incredibly well-suited to the text – abrupt in delivery, he skims between blackly comic and genuinely unsettling.
All the characters are like facets of the same collective modern identity; they are mistrustful, reactionary and deeply paranoid. Age and gender aren’t always important in regards to who plays who; these people are representative of a bigger idea. The vignettes veer from terrifying domestic violence to a surreal and very funny encounter at a swimming pool. And though occasionally Durnenkov’s barrage of scenes feels overly-ambitious or a little tumultuous, the gripping performances and potent sound and lighting design hold it all together.