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Kingdom Come review at the Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon – ‘bold and beautiful’

Scene from Kingdom Come at the Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Hugo Glendinning
Scene from Kingdom Come at the Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Hugo Glendinning
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Gemma Brockis and Wendy Hubbard’s devised show, Kingdom Come – programmed as part of the Mischief Festival – is set before, during and in the aftermath of the English Civil War. It is a fantasy on the theme of political rebellion and theatricality; wild, sprawling and impressionistic.

The cast and creative team include former members of the pioneering company Shunt, and it shows - Kingdom Come has all of the excessive theatricality of Shunt’s work, and amounts to an almost orgiastic visual experience.

It begins with Charles I’s last court masque, a gilded affair of pomp and ceremony. Charlotte Espiner’s design frames the Other Place stage with a proscenium arch, and behind it a wall of crumpled gold which ignites in blinding eruptions of light. Melanie Wilson’s typically tense sound design blossoms in orchestral waves of brass.

As the governing structures of England collapse, so too does the formality of theatrical convention, and the audience is herded backstage for Charles’ execution. In an austere final third, the theatre is stripped out and a group of players bicker and reflect on the country’s upheaval amidst a series of painterly tableaux.

There is a fascinating linguistic motif in the third act in which actors, legal Acts and the taking of action rub up against each other, suggesting the closeness of theatrical play with political rebellion, a theme which feels ripe for deeper excavation. Indeed, it feels as if the show never quite opens up its subject matter, preferring instead to dance mischievously around its fringes. No matter - this is bold, brilliant work.

 

Verdict
A rich, beautiful visual poem reflecting on the English Civil War
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