Described by its author as a ‘tragi-farce’, Edward Bond’s Have I None at the Golden Goose Theatre is a blunt dystopian nightmare packed into an energetically angry fifty-five minutes.
An energetically angry fifty-five minutes
Bond wrote the play in 2000 when, amongst other concerns, the turn of the millennium and its associated technological bug had recently threatened the end of life as we knew it. Was it a false fear or did all the precautions taken prevent it from happening? We'll probably never know. At the time, Bond, however, was looking further ahead to a future for which he believed the writing already to be on the wall. He leapt to 2077, without knowing that much of what he referenced might be taking hold even now.
The country is faced with ecological disaster and economic chaos. The democratic ideal has ceased to have meaning as governments have become increasingly authoritarian and repressive. The past has been expunged from records and reference to it is prohibited. Old cities lie in ruins and the people have been resettled. Soldiers patrol the streets of deserted suburbs. The frenzied mass consumerism of a previous age has been replaced by standard-issue houses, furniture and food. Domestic family life struggles to survive in a world swept by waves of fleeing refugees and mass suicides.
Director, Lewis Frost makes the room in which the action takes place a microcosm of the world outside. Living a spartan existence, we see just one room in the apartment where married couple Sara (Abigail Stone) and Jams (Brad Leigh) live. Furnishing consists of an old box and two upright chairs, of which they are obsessively possessive, each claiming one as thier property, and a small table. There is a door at which knocking is to be heard though no one is there, or the person has run away before it’s opened. The pair engage in extended rants and arguments; she in a state of despair, he in a mood of intransigence, befitting his job as a security guard. Then Grit (Paul Brayward) arrives and fuels the fire by claiming that Sara is his sister. He has travelled from the north and has a photograph of two children that should prove who he is and which brings memories to the fore for Sara. He presents a danger as photographs are illegal. Meanwhile two chairs for three people poses a problem of ownership and rights that fuels further arguments ensue.
The cast give impassioned performances, although the interminable haranguing can be overwhelming at times, especially given that there is little substance to it. The running time is something of a relief; fears of an act two, after the abrupt ending to the play did not materialise.
Bond’s plays make only intermittent appearances and this an excellent opportunity to see one staged. It’s very much a ‘make of it what you will’ event and the post-production showing of an interview with Bond makes little any clearer, but that is the nature of the man. Have I None is far from being amongst his greatest plays; this is no Saved, Lear or Narrow Road to the Deep North, but rather an exemplar of his mindset.