SQUARE ROUNDS | London, Finborough Theatre

A powerful anti-war message is enshrouded within a series of vaudevillian vignettes, in playwright and poet Tony Harrison’s new creation. A funfair exposé shows us the scientists who developed the guns and gases which helped in the efficient murder of millions during World War I and World War II.

At the start of the play, the all-female cast of six are a group of factory workers during the first world war. Soon, the latrine turns into a magic cabinet, and the women transmogrify into various chemists and physicists who had a hand in developing chemical and artillery warfare.

The performances are endlessly delightful, combining a commitment to realism with an edge of meanness. The play is preoccupied with duality: reality and fiction; good and evil. It is easier to devise a killing gas than to face up to the reality of a dying soldier. By co-opting sinister elements from the world of cabaret, the play magnifies the absurdity of war.

Jimmy Walter’s fast-paced and inventive direction complements Harrison’s verse. Daisy Blower’s set is uncluttered and evocative, while Depi Gorgogianni’s movement contributes to the play’s energetic momentum. Frightening, educational, provocative, and altogether quite wonderful.

Square Rounds is on at the Finborough Theatre until 29 September 2018.

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