With hundreds of new plays and performances responding to these troubling times of politics and those affected by them, it’s interesting to see a show focusing on the other side of the divide. Pepperdine Theatre’s The Abode sees a young American named Samuel tempted into a secret society of misogynists and racists trying to “reclaim their country”.
Written by Davey Anderson, this play could easily be mistaken for a devised piece. It has the hallmarks of a collective thought process; covering as many topics as possible, making tenuous connections to talents of the ensemble (in this case Opera), and a bloated cast among whom all the lines are divvied up equally, which is irritatingly disorientating for the audience.
Samuel’s dissent into alternative right territory rests on the society all communicating via walky-talky. The setting is described as “the present day, without digital technology”. Why? Other details are foggy and unspecified, blurring the physical and the metaphorical such as the straight white male Eden, with “no-one telling you what to do”, “pizza whenever you want” and “no censorship”. The dialogue is as immature as it sounds.
Audiences who went to see Pandorum Theatre’s F*ckboys for Freedom last year may see similarities in its criticism of male culture. However, where Pandorum had the good sense not to take themselves too seriously, Pepperdine are determined to speak their minds. The issue is that it is obvious neither the cast nor the creatives hold the opinions they discuss, and so instead of analysing the issues all the audience see is a list of right-wing imitations and stereotypes. The commentary is at its strongest when it is considering efforts to combat intolerance, but demonstrates a lack of understanding about other people’s motivations and perspectives. The same is often true of right-wing artists mocking the left.
Cathy Thomas-Grant’s well-considered direction is something of a saving grace, but the performances range from poor to passable, with Samuel’s sister Wendy being the only stand-out. It aims to take a look at the hateful underbelly of modern America, but never truly plunges down the rabbit hole, although does perhaps give some insight into millennial attitudes to alternative right movements.