Thursday, December 8

The Drought – Old Red Lion Theatre

Nina Ates’s The Drought is showing at the Old Red Lion theatre. The 600-year-old pub hosts the 40-year-old intimate theatre setting. The theatre is renowned for its off-west end theatre staging challenging and ambitious work that transfers to the west end and off-broadway. 

The drought is arresting in its use of light, sound and acting. Marooned in an imaginary time and place where the sea has vanished, the three men battle lack of sleep, food and desperation. The set has drapes of a sail of a boat. The wind’s relentless sound on the wood sends a cold tickle down one’s spine. The play unfolds bit by bit the circumstances of this lone Captain and Stewart, who seem to be grasping at the last straws of survival. The outsider, the whaler, arrives asking for refuge. He breaks the rituals the captain and his steward had fallen into. The whaler questions the captain’s authority and the steward’s sanity, needling them for answers they don’t seem ready to meet.

The play can capture the yearning deeply for home and the familiar while at sea. The absurdity of the British empire sending men on discovery while being lost at home. The class realities of who is served and who serves in the navy. Andrew Callaghan’s portrayal of the captain with those sunken eyes lusting for his ale, inhaling the last of the seawater is brilliant.

The play rang the proverb, “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realise that one cannot eat money,”

The play could very well be shown as part of the London Horror Festival. It is mainly in the audience’s imagination of what they would do in such a situation.  Would they turn to cannibalism or suicide? The answers in our heads turn the play into a horror unfolding.

Reviewer: Anisha Pucadyil

Reviewed: 1st November 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★