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Ready Or Not review at the Arcola Theatre, London – ‘a meandering thriller’

Joan Blackham and Adam Karim in Ready or Not at Arcola Theatre, London. Photo: Robert Day Joan Blackham and Adam Karim in Ready or Not at Arcola Theatre, London. Photo: Robert Day
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Few things are more relevant or chilling at present than alternative facts. In Naylah Ahmed’s new play Ready Or Not, the toxic side of the internet, with its rabbit hole of videos and below the line comments, becomes the catalyst for nurturing extreme views in a seemingly unremarkable domestic setting.

Yusuf is a young Muslim man armed with a clipboard and petition against drone warfare. Pat is a pensioner armed with a cricket bat who lures him into her home-made torture cell with dishwater for waterboarding and a scarf for strangulation.

Helena Bell’s first production as artistic director of Kali Theatre lacks tension and focus. It’s not helped by the annoying graphics depicting instant messaging, nor the use of voiceovers.

There are flashes of darkly humorous banter when Pat and Yusuf teeter on the edge of finding some understanding but the developing rapport is broken up by an interval and the way the play switches its focus to a third character.

Joan Blackham creates a plausible and occasionally sympathetic monster in Pat. She makes everything about her to the bitter end and is her own worst enemy. Adam Karim’s Yusuf is in many ways a model hostage, preternaturally eloquent under pressure.

Sophia Lovell Smith’s uncosy domestic design suits the sense of an impersonal interior in a similarly impersonal neighbourhood.

All the points raised by this play are powerful ones, notably the final image of the limitations of the most trusted news outlets, but the production struggles to engage, with an overload of strands that could esily have been condensed into something more persuasive.

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Verdict
A meandering thriller that features a great deal of talk but little fluidity
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