Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Stairway to Heaven, Blue Elephant Theatre

Review: Stairway to Heaven, Blue Elephant Theatre

Published in Time Out, 29.06.2010

A simple morality tale simply told, Stairway to Heaven explores basic proletariat politics through the pyramid builders of Ancient Eygpt. Newly enlisted Makhthon (James Ronan) arrives full of admiration for the Pharoah, only to find that his new job consists of endless exhaustion and savagery. Having caught the eye of his slave-driving superior Merab, Makhthon is subjected to regular violence and rape, soon learning to take comfort in the austere pleasures of bread, beer and the company of his peers: the cynical, profiteering Hiksos and sweet-natured Geb. It doesn’t take long, however, for his head to pop above the paraphet once too often with fatal consequences.

Curiously, Steve Hennessy lends his workforce the language of a Simon Stephens East End boozer – all ‘f-ing Pharoahs’ and ‘bastard capstones’ – but spins little imagery out of the coarseness. His script is both well-structured and well-seasoned with joviality, but archetypes can only do so much. More layered complexity wouldn’t go amiss.

As it is, Chris Loveless directs unfussily, weaning a few nice images out of the daily grind, but could make braver, bolder choices. Though Ronan slightly overdoes the clean-cut of Makhthon’s jib, there’s good work from James French as Merab and Matthew Ward as a doltish, good-hearted Geb.

Photograph: Blue Elephant Theatre

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