Londonist Rating: ★★★★★
Only a couple of miles away and yet so far from the moat of the Tower of London and its recent, rather genteel commemorations of the First World War centenary, a grimy, intimate and affecting piece of immersive theatre (taking place in a tenants’ hall on the Draper Estate) is tearing open the emotional cost of the Great War with a bang.
In The Flood, an nurse and her soldier lover are trapped in a demented loop, desperately trying to find illusory hope in superstition (whether established or not) or in an imagined rosy future together, as they pitch along the ebb and flow of comparatively peaceful times (letters to each other and periods of leave) and the unrelenting violence endured by soldiers going over the top to be butchered.
During those repeated attacks, the air of the confined performance space is punctured by flinch-inducing, gunfire-mimicking banging administered by Susanne Gschwendtner, while Steve Lambert, in his own personal hell, shouts himself hoarse. Bits of bloodied meat are cut, sawn up and thrown, injuries are described in great detail, while all teeter on the edge of the overarching insanity (a word much repeated during the play). One impressionable fellow member of the audience didn’t make it ’til the end and had to leave about halfway.
From the start the language is disjointed and repetitive and the performances take on a manic energy, unremitting in their delivery, which must be as gruelling for the cast to sustain as well as they do, as it is for the audience to witness.
The company behind the show, BADAC, aims to “produce new work that highlights human rights issues and abuse”. First performed to critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Festival last summer, The Flood is a harrowing two-hander setting out to make flesh the insanity of war and how it makes victims not only of the combatants but also of the women left behind. Only the men who order those wars remain unscathed. This is socially engaged theatre at its most visceral and powerful.
The Flood lasts 55min and is at the Draper Tenants Hall, 1 Howell Walk, Elephant and Castle, SE1 6TL (entrance via Newington Butts) on selected nights until 21 March. Tickets: £12/£9. Book here. Only 30 tickets available per performance. Standing room only. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.