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Building the Wall review at Park Theatre – ‘bold and breathless’

Trevor White and Angela Griffin in Building the Wall at Park Theatre, London. Photo: Photo credit Mark Douet

When Robert Schenkkan wrote Building the Wall in the autumn of 2016, it was probably a unsettling, insightful and important analysis of where Trump’s rampant demagoguery would lead. It’s still all of those things, but in 2018, with the Trump administration currently embroiled in a scandal over whether or not the president paid off a porn star, it also seems a bit shamelessly sensationalist.

Not that shamelessly sensationalist is a bad thing to be. It would be great if more theatres staged productions like Jez Bond’s, the first UK outing of a play that’s proved phenomenally popular across the Atlantic. It’s bold, bite-size, and unapologetically political. A binge-worthy, 80-minute box-set of a show. If Netflix did theatre…

It’s 2019. Trevor White (superb in Thebes Land at the Arcola, superb in this) is Rick, a redneck, orange-jumpsuited Trump-voter awaiting sentencing at El Paso County Jail. Angela Griffin (also great) is Gloria, an African American academic granted an interview.

Rick was in charge of a privately-run deportation centre in meltdown, a cog in a machine spinning sickeningly out of control. As the super-charged interview progresses, Rick’s crime gradually becomes clear, as does his chilling logic. It’s both too horrific and too spoiler-tastic to mention, asking deafening questions about history, about America, and about collective responsibility.

Bond’s production takes place entirely inside a glass box, the only dialogue we hear piped into the auditorium via microphones. You’d think that might prove distancing, but it’s not. You catch every word of this breathless, interrogation room thriller.

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A breathless and bold dystopian political thriller about the consequences of anti-immigrant rhetoric