12 March 2010

The Promise at the Orange Tree

The Promise is the least impressive play that I can recall seeing at the Orange Tree, but it is sold out so what do I know?

The promise in question is that given by the British Government to the Jews in the form of the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The play gives us a glimpse in to the players, motives and actions that led towards the eventual creation of Israel and, arguably, the mess that the Middle East is in now.

And that's about it.

The play is tense and well acted but it is little more than a patchy history lesson with a love interest thrown in that may, or may not, have been true.

Perhaps it was a metaphor that I missed or a famous scandal that I did not know about but, either way, it just confused the play and the only theatrical device it seemed to deploy was to get some eye candy on the stage.

I was not sure how much history I was meant, or needed, to know either.

It took me a while to work out who the Prime Minister was and there were passing references to things like "Churchill" and "Gallipoli" which were not fully explained.

I found most of the characterisation slight too. The reason for zeal of the Zionist who was the driving force behind the declaration was clear but it was not at all obvious why Balfour supported it, why a Jewish member of the Cabinet was so against it, how Asquith ever became PM or why the floozie got involved with the men she did.

If this all sounds negative, it is only because I am comparing The Promise to everything else that I have seen and loved at the Orange Tree. The Promise is a well sustained drama that informs and entertains but, in the end, it fails to inspire or delight.

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