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The Flies review at the Bunker, London – ‘tedious, awkward and incoherent’

Meena Rayann in The Flies at the Bunker, London. Photo: Camille Dufrenoy
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In 1943, a young Jean-Paul Sartre wrote The Flies (Les Mouches, in French), a retelling of the Electra myth designed as a rebellious two-fingers to Nazi rule. Committed internationalists Exchange Theatre staged this “forgotten classic” in 2008, and the company revives that production in a 10-year anniversary celebration that’s performed in French and English on alternate nights.

Thing is, there’s not much to celebrate here. Even with Game of Thrones’ Meena Rayann in the cast, David Furlong’s show makes for a tiring, tedious experience. The problems are many and manifold.

The play, for one thing, is excruciatingly dull. Exchange Theatre claims this production has a timely relevance, but it’s using a ropey old Stuart Gilbert translation from the 1940s that’s stodgy and stilted from start to finish. Cutting and contemporary it is not.

Furlong’s staging is just as bad, and the live presence of a jangly three-strong rock band exacerbates things further. The aesthetic is half Nazi Star Trek and half BDSM battle of the bands. Destroyed computers squat around the edge of the square stage, bleeding grainy messages. Blood-red banners with scary, oppressive symbols hang limply from the curtain. This Argos looks like it actually comes from Argos.

Rayann leads an uneven cast unevenly, and although there’s a faltering, feverish intensity to some scenes, the whole thing ultimately descends into incoherence and ignominy. A distinctly unedifying evening.

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Awkward and incoherent staging of Jean-Paul Sartre’s retelling of the Electra myth