Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: The Bomb: A Partial History, Tricycle Theatre

Review: The Bomb: A Partial History, Tricycle Theatre

Published in Time Out, 20.02.2012

Talk about going out with a bang. Nicolas Kent’s final production as the Tricycle’s artistic director is a two-part, ten-play cycle, on the subject of the atom bomb – or, as David Greig puts it, “a truly philosophical weapon”.

Greig’s offering, The Letter of Last Resort, is the highlight. On her first day in the job in 2015, the newly elected Prime Minister must decide whether or not Britain retaliates, in the event of London (and Radio 4) being destroyed by such an attack. If she does not retaliate, that would nullify the initial deterrent and render Trident void. “The only rational way to behave is to be irrational,” her advisor warns.

Sixty years earlier, Clement Attlee faced a similar dilemma about the inception of our nuclear programme, as shown in Ron Hutchinson’s excellent Calculated Risk, and equally absurd paradoxes of mutually assured destruction are a running motif. Schrödinger’s cat, Pandora’s box and Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 recur, helping to paint a big picture of a Reservoir Dogs-style stalemate on a global scale.

The first group of five plays, First Blast, describes the history, with brilliant contributions from Zinnie Harris, Amit Gupta and John Donnelly, who gives Ukranian arms-dealing a twist of Martin McDonagh.

Part two, entitled Second Blast, looks at contemporary power play. It covers Iran, Israel and North Korea and adds both potency and urgency. An entertaining, provoking dossier, with admirable nuance and real purpose, The Bomb epitomises Kent’s tenure. London theatre will miss him.

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