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Theatre Review Walled in

DENNIS POOLE sees a disturbing drama on the blinkered mindset of a Trump fanatic

Building The Wall
Park Theatre, London

SET in the near future, Robert Schenkkan’s Building The Wall pursues the trajectory of Trump’s hostile policies in controlling immigration in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in New York's Times Square.

His administration ramps up the ante by declaring martial law and pursuing policies of enforced deportation with catastrophic consequences and, enmeshed in these events, Rick (Trevor White) — operations manager for a privately run prison — finds himself in El Paso jail.

Awaiting sentence, he accedes to a request from African-American academic historian Gloria (Angela Griffin) to tell his side of the story.

The entire action takes place within a secure interview room, represented on stage by a glass cage, such that the audience become quasi voyeurs, physically separated from the discourse — a feeling intensified by the dialogue being broadcast through loudspeakers.

That discourse is disturbing and unsettling, not least because Rick provokes sympathy and understanding in his self-awareness of the circumstances that have brought him to his current situation.

Emblematic of the typical Trump supporter, with his family roots, class and culture trashed by the grinding mill of global capitalism, he's forced to squander his obvious intelligence and talents through military service and then working for an outsourced prison facility.

These realities have brought him to a pretty pass, but, rather than blaming the capitalist system for his plight, he's fallen for the Trump tropes of making America great again and the consequent blame for all problems on others, notably foreign immigrants, corrupt politicians and fake media.

Building The Wall has many current resonances. Although on a lesser scale, the hostile environment for illegal immigration and its devastating impact on innocent citizens, the causes and aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, the culture of self-serving unaccountable incompetence manifest in the outsourcing of public services, the disempowerment of ordinary citizens — all of these could be referenced.

It's a play well worth seeing not least to experience and understand Rick’s ecstatic explanation of how he came to be such an avid adherent to, and ultimate victim of, Trump's seduction.

Runs until June 2, box office: parktheatre.co.uk

 

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