Too often, new dystopian play The Open feels emotionally closed at The Space Arts Centre
“Just because things got bad doesn’t mean they couldn’t be good again”
With so much uncertainty surrounding what a post-Brexit Britain might actually look like (and with no sign of any clarity arriving anytime soon), the fertile imaginations of writers will have to do. And in the case of Florence Bell (directing her own play here too), it is a dystopian viewpoint in the shadow of Trump that persists in The Open.
It’s 2050 and the orange cheeto has bought Britain, converting it into The Great British Golf Course. Citizens have become golf caddies, entertaining the rich and famous, and any attempt at resistance is met with the severest punishment. Even so, migrant worker Jana wants to rebel against the authoritarian status quo and draws friends Arthur and Patrick into her orbit, despite the danger.
Any number of ferociously contemporary and contentious issues are brought to bear here – the status of immigrants vs the ‘British’, notions of national identity and the other, social responsibility, encroaching state control of the media, the perils of a careless selfie… But The Open struggles to make them cohere, to fashion a narrative that engages and enthrals.
Plotting gets bogged down in its overcomplicatedness, necessitating too many explicatory scenes. Timelines go awry and pacing goes to pot as the stateliness of the first act is supplanted by a frenetic second. More crucially, the characters lack the depth of feeling to make us really care – as friends, as lovers, they just don’t convince, leaving The Open feeling emotionally closed.