Review: The Bomb: a partial history – Second Blast, Tricycle Theatre

“There are over 200 countries in the world and only 8, maybe 9 have nuclear weapons”

The second part of the Tricycle’s The Bomb – a partial history is named Second Blast: Present Dangers and focuses its attention on where the nuclear threat lies now, i.e. in the Middle East and North Korea. Alongside the five plays, there’s more of the verbatim reportage, edited by Richard Norton-Taylor, in this section, effectively deployed to demonstrate the almost ridiculousness of the way in which the debate about Iran and nuclear capability has been framed the US and Israel, and later on to remind us of the official political positions of many of our own leaders in the UK.

Altogether I was a tiny bit disappointed with this half of the day (I’d’ve given it 3.5 stars as opposed to 4 for Part 1) as First Blast: Proliferation had cast its net far and wide to cover five different aspects of the history of the bomb but Second Blast returned time and time again to Iran (3 times in fact) in terms of the present day. Obviously it’s a massive part of where we are in terms of potential instability, but I felt that a more useful eye could have been cast elsewhere as well – in a savage indictment of those countries like Israel and Pakistan who still refuse to sign up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or indeed a more damning look at those countries that have signed yet show no signs of reducing their stockpile.

As with the first part First Blast: Proliferation, I’ve written about each play separately, so click on the links for There Was A Man. There Was No Man by Colin Teevan, Axis by Diana Son, Talk Talk Fight Fight by Ryan Craig, The Letter of Last Resort by David Greig and From Elsewhere: On the Watch… by Zinnie Harris.

Once again there was great delight in seeing the company stretching themselves in different roles: Paul Bhattacharjee probably wins for being amazing and incredibly hard-working, but Belinda Lang and Nathalie Armin run him a close second and there really were no weak links for me. Polly Sullivan’s simple design allows great flexibility and Douglas O’Connell’s video work was also used extremely well on the panels that divide the back of the stage.

The Bomb – a partial history makes an excellent final entry into Nicolas Kent’s work at the Tricycle Theatre and leaves Indhu Rubasingham with quite the challenge in filling his boots. It may waver in the quality of the writing from time to time but nothing lasts long enough to outstay its welcome and something amazing like David Greig’s The Letter of Last Resort in part 2 and Amit Gupta’s Option in Part 1 is never far away, making this a crucially important and fascinating piece of epic theatre.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: £5 (covers both parts)
Booking until 1st April

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