Tricycle Theatre's Nicolas Kent goes out with a bang

Feb 27, 2012

Long-serving artistic director tackles atom bomb with 'constantly absorbing' ten short plays

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What you need to know
The Bomb – A Partial History, artistic director Nicolas Kent's final production for the north London Tricycle Theatre company, is a cycle of ten short plays about the atom bomb. Kent, director of Tricycle for 28 years, also produced The Great Game, a day-long festival of drama on the history of Afghanistan.

The production is divided into two parts which can be seen over two nights or on an afternoon and evening over the weekend.

The first group of five plays, 'First Blast', explores the history of Britain's relationship with the bomb with works by Ron Hutchinson, Lee Blessing, Zinnie Harris, Amit Gupta and John Donnelly. Part two, 'Second Blast', looks at the contemporary situation and power play with Iran, Israel and North Korea, through pieces by Ryan Craig, David Greig, Zinnie Harris, Diana Son and Colin Teevan.

What the critics like
This is a final exhilarating skid around the track for Kent before he gives up his artistic leadership of Tricycle, says Libby Purves in The Times. His "partial history" of the Bomb, using 11 fine actors, is "sharply edited and constantly absorbing".

The bite-sized dramas are a great way of coming at such taxing material, says Sarah Hemming in The Financial Times. The range of voices, styles and subjects "injects energy and pace". Polly Sullivan's minimal set underscores the gravity of the debates on stage, and "a versatile cast juggles the characters".

Paul Bhattacharjee is especially versatile with his roles, says Henry Hitchings in the Evening Standard. There's nimble work from Rick Warden and Daniel Rabin, and Belinda Lang "impresses as a bewildered PM coaxed along by Simon Chandler's superbly dry civil servant". The two parts can be seen separately, but "savouring them back-to-back enhances their impact".  

What they don't like
Some of the plays are inevitably better than others, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. No other play quite matches David Greig's The Letter of Last Resort, but he left admiring "the vivid clarity of Kent's production".

The scripts are patchy, some lumpen with background facts, others without enough, says Kate Bassett in The Independent. "You might also expect more sense of urgency regarding North Korea and Iran's current nuclear status". Still, the plays cover a lot of ground and "combine ethical arguments with surprising humour".

Not all of the ten plays are first-rate, agrees Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph. But "there isn't a complete dud among them, and the best pieces are superb examples of powerful one-act drama".

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