Fourth Monkey's Genesis and Revelation: The Ark

Drawing from Biblical allusions, Fourth Monkey’s The Ark, as part of their Genesis and Revelation programme, centres on people attempting to play God with the lives of modern-day refugees. The focus flits between the story of Noah, the migrants travelling from Syria to Greece, and the political jostling in Brussels.

Writer Steve Green and director Stephen Sobal create sharp lines of contrast, knitting together a piercingly modern Europe with traditional modes of storytelling to create a thoughtful and current piece of theatre.

Our narrator (Elizabeth Holingshead) and Noah (Alastair Willy) both speak in heightened language, mimicking extracts from Genesis. Noah is a God-fearing coastguard and his three sons opportunist people smugglers: their ark an inadvertent salvation for migrants. This modern twist is cleverly put forth, retaining an epic style of speech and delivery amongst Noah and his family. Holingshead in particular is an excellent storyteller; engaging and astute, guiding us through the narrative.

The refugees, in contrast, work together as a seamless ensemble. They use choral speech, movement and music to present their shared struggles, singing folk-style sea shanties and moving as one. The set, comprised of crates manipulated to create different settings, is simple and effective, smoothly maneuvered by the ensemble cast, who are hooded, identical, faceless. Fourth Monkey’s signature ensemble work is nicely contrasted to the world of individualism and luxury in Europe.

In Brussels we find a caricatured parody of diplomats in their least flattering and most sordid states of disarray. A poodle, a questionable massage and plenty of alcohol flows in what appears like a spa-weekend-cum-conference. Accents and stereotyped mannerisms are well-executed by all.

The audience’s darling, the UK diplomat Charlie (Calum Robshaw), is a frightening mix of public school blubbering champagne-guzzling man-child and Nigel Farage. Robshaw’s performance is hilarious, and further deepens the disgust as his atrocious policies are flippantly enforced. This well-pitched comic relief is a God-send in a show that occasionally veers on the monotonous or dense.

In a twist of fate, the hand of God (and a brilliant piece of lighting design) is employed in a spectacular penultimate scene. Writer Steve Green and director Stephen Sobal create sharp lines of contrast, knitting together a piercingly modern Europe with traditional modes of storytelling to create a thoughtful and current piece of theatre.

Reviews by Ellie Coote

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

**** (Stage). **** (Independent). **** (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘Theatre at its most inventive’ (Stage on Fourth Monkey's 2015 production of Elephant Man. Fourth Monkey return to the Fringe with another season of work in repertory: Noah is a coastguard patrolling the coast of a fractured Libyan state bound and compromised by duty to both his God and his fellow man. The Ark is a physical and ensemble reimagining of the Bible story, exploring man's humanity, savagery and bigotry paralleling the contemporary refugee crisis with that of the biblical story of the ark.

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