The last time I visited The Other Place was nearly a decade ago, when it was the Courtyard Theatre and David Tennant was playing Hamlet. A couple of years ago it was revived as a studio theatre with a number of Mischief Festivals, filled with experimental new work. The latest one sees a new play take over the theatre for the duration of September.
Kingdom Come is the work of Gemma Brockis and Wendy Hubbard, featuring a company of actors and devisers including Tom Lyall and Emmanuella Cole. It seeks to explore the English Civil War, the fall of King Charles I and the rise of Cromwell, mostly from the conflicted perspective of a group of actors. The conflict here is while the Puritans preached democracy and fairness and the end of tyranny, they also pursued draconian measures of their own – including closing the theatres.
All this in under two hours; and it’s mostly successful. We begin by witnessing a masque, performed in 1740, featuring King Charles himself and employing all the theatrical tricks and costumes possible, beneath a glorious proscenium arch. We then witness the downfall of the monarchy and are invited through the arch ‘backstage’ to witness the King’s execution and the efforts of Puritans to establish a true republic. Finally we are shown back into the auditorium where we witness a state in the throes of uncertainty and a group of actors struggling to survive.
The piece suffers from the problem many devised pieces have, in that it’s a bit fragmented and doesn’t always seem to form a coherent whole. However, I still think it’s an impressive achievement, making use of masque, tableau, movement and speeches to convey the corrupt glamour of Charles’s court and the repressive uncertainty of the Cromwellian epoch. Overall it was memorable and fascinating, and I hope to return to The Other Place soon if this is the sort of intriguing work they put on.