Lured by the ideals of a new, natural world, Ben and Nel escape civilization in Broadsword Theatre’s dark drama Atlantis. In this seemingly safe and civil island away from society, their relationship is tested as the cult begins to show its true colours. This is a promising show that illustrates how attractive the appeal of a cult can be, yet it is sadly let down as the story develops.
Beginning the show, we are introduced to an array of different characters with broad motives for joining Atlantis. It is steady and convincing; the script draws on very current issues of climate change and consumerism. As it progresses, however, the story quickly goes downhill. Once accusations come to light, the climax is rushed and exaggerated – a complete change of pace – and the ending ultimately left me unsatisfied with the story.
This is a shame, because the foundation of the play and characterisation of certain individuals shines at the beginning. The cult leader, Matthew, is a well-fleshed-out character who thrives on the reactions of others. His inner uncertainty and need for approval draws us into the tale, creating a veil of fear around his authority – exactly as we imagine from a cult leader. He has a believable appeal too, striving for a natural world away from the poisons of consumerism.
But in contrast, one character is wasted throughout the play. Norman, an extremely quiet man who arrives shortly after our protagonists, does so little that it’s hard not to question his purpose. Apart from being someone for Ben to talk to (a one-sided conversation), and featuring in a rather messy scene of violence, Norman contributes nothing to the overall plot – which, with only five actors, stands out like a sore thumb. There is so much potential to explore these characters and their past experiences, so it’s disappointing he shows so few signs of opening up from his shell.
There is so much potential surrounding Atlantis – perhaps it is too ambitious for the time constraints of the Fringe, but the ending is sudden and edging on surreal. The parts that go well are successful, but it is heavily weighed down by the elements that are missing. Like cult members themselves, the audience is enticed at the start, but the illusion eventually falls through.