07 June 2018
Building The Wall
A play by Robert Schenkkan at the Park Theatre
Reviewed by John Watson
The acting by Angela Griffin and Trevor White is first class. The dialogue is well written in a courtroom drama sort of way, and yet there is something a little unsatisfactory about this production.
The idea of setting a Nazi-style death camp into the context of Trump’s wall (and I do not think this is a spoiler since one can hardly watch the production without understanding where it is going) may fit the author’s politics, but asks the wrong questions. Yes, we have the usual death camp issues: the hopelessness of the individual struggling against bureaucracy; the pressure to follow orders and the unwillingness (demonstrated as false) to do so; the dehumanisation of the participant; the participant’s surprise at being denounced by someone he had protected. We have seen all these before and the play adds little to our understanding of them.
Of the much more interesting question of whether Trump’s wall could lead to all this, there is little exploration, save for a picture of a failing private prison becoming grossly overloaded. That was a shame. I suspect that Mr Schenkkan dislikes private prisons but that was not enough to explain how it happened. Still, on the plus side, there was a compelling passage on the way in which a Trump rally inspired the crowd, for me the high point of the play, and both the set and Jez Bond’s direction were excellent.