The Wave

"The Wave is THE WAY", boom the Almeida Young Company (14 – 18) before thudding their fists into their chests. They are powerful, they are huge, and they are one. This military gesture is at odds with their setting – a classroom in a local comprehensive.

The ensemble have energy. The Almeida Young Company are a force to be reckoned with.

Such is the premise of playwright Molly Taylor’s The Wave. Students who sign up for A-Level Sociology find themselves the unknowing participants in a larger experiment. Taylor’s play explores whether well-meaning students will buy into core tenets of fascism - if the name of the ‘ism’ is hidden from them and called something else (the eponymous ‘Wave’).

It is an exciting premise and The Wave is at its best when it explores private spaces, such as a secret Whatsapp group that the Wave members use to communicate with each other. In this space, their emerging intolerance of others is embryonic and private. This is where it is most threatening. Taylor’s writing here is superb, as it allows for natural and easily recognisable ‘group chat’ dynamics (emojis, abbreviations, .gifs) to take over the space, whilst positioning this against a green fascist gloom cast by Philip Burke’s unsettling lighting design. Everything is subliminal and subsurface. Taylor’s play asks the audience to consider just how many secret Whatsapp groups are coordinating social groups today.

The ensemble have energy. The Almeida Young Company are a force to be reckoned with. The characters bear a febrile tension that originates from being grown-up enough to not trust the grown-ups. Yet their sociology teacher charms them with charismatic poise reminiscent of Jordan Peterson. He is clearly a ‘baddie’, and yet he is so agreeable that it is hard not to feel his persuasive tug – a major characteristic of any extreme leadership style: recruit your followers charmingly, before you reduce others alarmingly.

Roberta Zuric and Valerie Sadoh’s direction captures the longing of being young and the hunger to be part of something larger than yourself. Some scene transitions feel exaggerated and the movement direction cold be held to a tighter lens across the play. Taylor’s script is certainly relevant whilst populism of many kinds sweeps Europe and nations elsewhere. However, the reveal – that this is a simulation, an experiment – takes place quite late in the script by which it is already clear that this is a conceptual training programme rather than the real thing. The concept is then explained several times across different scenes – delimiting the pay-off when there is a mass reveal in a school assembly.

The Wave is a parable. Nearly everyone would consider themselves as unrecruitable to a fascist doctrine. In a democratic society, images of Nuremberg and National Socialist rallies seem like an individual impossibility – but those images are of the end result, not the early cause. Fascism is a process which makes you feel included and results in the exclusion of others – and Taylor’s writing shows a clear and often unflinching understanding of this.

Reviews by Skot Wilson

Above the Stag Theatre

The Establishment Versus Sidney Harry Fox

★★★★
The Space

The Cloak of Visibility

★★★★
Royal Court Theatre

Shoe Lady

★★★
Royal Court Theatre

A Kind of People

★★★★
Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre

Three Sisters

★★★★
Royal Court Theatre

Midnight Movie

★★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

1939. 143 million people in Italy and Germany live under fascism, controlled by dictators. Their leaders are Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

1963. Milgram’s psychological experiment finds that 65% of participants will follow an authority’s order and administer a lethal electric shock to an innocent stranger.

2019. 17 pupils in a London comprehensive participate in a project on collective identity. What lies around the corner, no one predicts.

Written by Molly Taylor (Extinguished Things, Cacophony) and developed with the 14 –18 Almeida Young Company, The Wave asks what happens when everything you thought you knew and trusted about yourself is challenged.

Photo Credit: Ali Wright. 

Most Popular See More

Wicked

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Book of Mormon

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Mousetrap

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mary Poppins

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Grease the Musical

From £20.00

More Info

Find Tickets