REVIEW: PROPHECY, New End Theatre Hampstead

PUBLISHED: 15:01 24 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:25 07 September 2010

Three star rating The buzz word for this piece is augury, a word that young Jeremy – somewhat improbably – doesn t understand, and that Sarah, his drama teacher, equally improbably, seems unable to explain. They are living in a totally white set, which ma

Three star rating

The buzz word for this piece is augury, a word that young Jeremy - somewhat improbably - doesn't understand, and that Sarah, his drama teacher, equally improbably, seems unable to explain. They are living in a totally white set, which may explain their disorientation. It dazzles disconcertingly as the lights come up, which doesn't augur well for the rest of the play.

Sarah was a respected actress who now teaches drama and is married to Alan Golden (George Bartenieff) a Jewish pacifist and director of the refugee committee. Jeremy is a talented young actor, who enlisted for Iraq in order to pay for his tuition, but the experience of war has left him unhinged.

A speech from Antigone sparks off a memory which sends him berserk, an incident of which he has no recollection afterwards. As he has destroyed college property, Sarah has to intercede for him with the dean (Michael Roberts) who as a Vietnam veteran himself should be sympathetic. She also tries to discuss the matter with Alan, but he cares more for Muslim children than any white Catholic boy.

Sarah suffers a series of flashbacks, remembering her aborted pregnancy by Lukas, her late lover; newsreels of children on fire from napalm; and her husband's involvement with Hala, a Lebanese colleague.

Najla Said, a beautiful and versatile actress, plays Hala along with two other roles. As another of Sarah's impossibly stupid students, she does a memorable complicated dance routine instead of declaiming the Greek chorus - believing that the word "chorus" means dancing girls.

Finally she is enchanting in a Muslim headscarf as Miriam, Alan's long lost daughter.

Also impressive is Jos Vantyler as Jeremy, a young actor with distinctive looks and a powerful presence. Susan Penhaligon uses a shrill American accent which belies her customary cosiness and gives the impression that she is battling through the words. Maybe she feels, like your reviewer, that the play is a little over worthy and that the dialogue, like the stark white set, is self consciously arty.

Even so, it may be a harrowing experience.

Until October 5.

Aline Waites

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