A single actor, Jack Klaff, tell a series of interconnected stories about the most influential minds of the 20th century in
You never end up very invested
The problem with featuring such a huge and diverse range of characters is that, as an audience member, you never end up very invested in any of them, especially since none of them are present throughout. Each appears only briefly for their segment, with an accompanying portrait displayed behind, before the focus of the performance moves on. This results in little-to-no emotional impact in the moments which are clearly intended to have one. It becomes confusing and leaves no room for the inattentive spectator – a momentary distraction can cost you the names of the current principles and therefore, unless you can recognise them from their photographs, their significance.
It also isn’t a production for those uninterested in history as the very nature of it relies upon an appreciation for it and even some prior knowledge. I found myself very glad to have studied the Cold War as this at least illuminated me on some of the events referred to on stage, although my companion was not so lucky. She left the auditorium with more questions than answers and not in a good way. For a play aiming to enrich your perception of real life figures it never tells you very much about them. While I wasn’t expecting a lecture, I would have appreciated being saved desperately trying to remember the extent of Kennedy’s involvement in the Bay of Pigs catastrophe, or the specifics of Ghandi’s career. Of course, by the time I had given up on or managed to dredge up enough information to contextualise the interaction on stage, the action had moved on.
In its globe and decade spanning exploration, Icons is very creative and does go some way to imbue you with an awareness of the complex tapestry of life, but it doesn’t do so comfortably, and succeeds in little else.