Victims of Freedom

Set in an imagined European city of the future, a nuclear family's idyllic existence is shattered when Dad's past returns to haunt him. Before you know it, a bunch of terrorists are hiding out at home. Queue the arrival of torturing mercenaries, followed by government troops, and their small suburban life appears to be stuffed to the gunnels with every flavour of paramilitary organisation. It's amazing they found the room.

Shed Theatre are an amateur group, so don't expect any Tony-nominee performances here; but I did think there was occassional flashes of better-than-average promise, and the opening lament with violin accompaniment was particularly powerful.

But there are problems. Big ones. The first is the decision of the theatre company to let the actors exchange roles through their short run. It means no one person ever gets to nail their performance, and you can see budding talent here that is just struggling to remember their lines. There was literally space to trundle an armoured vehicle through some of the gaps in the dialogue. Certain characterisations seem weakly drawn, and I think that has to be expected if the actor playing to role only gets one shot at it whilst trying to remember five other parts.

The other major issue is that the story is fundamentally flawed. The self-confessed terrorists appear to be far more sympathetic than either the mercenaries or government troops - but no justification is offered for this. The family claim to have no involvement with the terrorist group, but within a couple of minutes of their arrival they're offering cups of tea and playing scrabble whilst the Kalashnikovs dangle around their necks. When the mercenaries storm the house, there's no explanation of their motive - why don't they simply take the group to custody? My understanding of mercenaries is they get in, get the job done, and get paid. Torture isn't part of their remit, so this story is suggesting that's just a hobby.

The final twist - which I'll try and avoid revealing - although dramatic, involves some preparation on the part of the mother and father which kind of invalidates everything they had claimed in the previous 45 minutes.

Reviews by Pete Shaw

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