Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Boiling Frogs, Southwark Playhouse

Review: Boiling Frogs, Southwark Playhouse

An edited version appeared in Time Out, 22.10.2010

You can’t boil a frog by adding hot water. Gradually increase the heat, however, and it will accept its fate compliantly. Steven Bloomer’s lofty play – left-leaning all the way off its high horse – attacks our unwitting complicity in the similar erosion of our civil liberties. Freedom of speech, he suggests, is as fantastical as hobbits and elves.

Bloomer twists the present into an Orwellian police state laced with Dario Fo’s absurdity. As carnival placates the locals, the police enjoy a shindig of their own: passing nibbles and popping streamers. Locked in a shrinking cell downstairs, as yet uncharged, are two costumed protestors (Superman and Jesus, who closer resembles Gandhi) and a policeman. Faced with their own prisoner’s dilemma, the three turn on one another.

However, Bloomer mistakes a balloon debate for drama, presenting not people but points on a triangle: apathy, idealism and action. His insistence on our culpability, noble though it sounds, grows wearisome. Besides, there’s a nagging hypocrisy: if he really cares, why rail in a fringe theatre?

There are deft touches, notably Pochoir’s boilersuit costumes stencilled with Banksy-like uniforms, but The Factory’s laboratory techniques and multiple casts become redundant: hangovers from their feted improvised classics that, here, needlessly scuff the polish.

Photograph: Faye Thomas


  1. I'd love to kow what you actually based some of this review on Matt, there was no mention of which cast variation you saw, whether you saw several performances or just the one. There was no reference to any points in the play that gave you the opinions you came away with. As a critique it's very fluffy and smacks of inexperience.

    I'm interested in knowing how you came to the conclusion the multi-casting wasn't helpful or interesting, on second viewing I felt like I was watching a completely different play with a wonderful new energy. I'm also intrigued to know what you believe Steven Bloomer should have done with his political ideas and opinions that could have been more successful than sharing it with the hundreds of people who have seen it so far? Was your comment mocking of the Fringe, the Playhouse or Political theatre ingeneral. It all seems so vague and personal, maybe you saw the piece whilst having a very bad day. I urge you to go again, see a different cast and see if you can be clearer as to what it is you didn't like. I'm positive you'l change your mind if not atleast gain some more clarity which inyour profession is no bad thing.

    Beth Johnson.

  2. I agree with the above. It should also be pointed out that they have scheduled a programme of post-show political talks after the performances. Hardly hypocritical I'd say. The experimental nature of the production, these talks, and the superb (IMO) acting, direction and script are to be applauded. Maybe it's not always polished, but at least there's risks being taken and on the night I saw it (Wednesday 23rd) it was truly phenomenal. One of the best plays I have seen in London this year. I only wished I could have clapped harder at the end – but was left far too dumbstruck for that.

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