Torben Betts’s Intensely Silly The Unconquered


‘Britons never, never, never shall be slaves,’ says “Rule, Britannia!” Except, of course, onstage in Scottish writer Torben Betts’s intensely silly The Unconquered. After a leftist revolution goes awry, civil war breaks out in England, and a family consisting of father, mother, and venomous daughter finds itself enchained by a lustful soldier. Written in an absurdist style, Betts’s script satirizes the bourgeoisie in achingly familiar ways: They make healthful meals, they maintain loveless marriages, they golf. Imagine that a college-aged Ionesco had taken a freshman seminar on Marxist thought and submitted a play in lieu of an exam. On second thought, why bother to imagine anything so inane at all? The daughter herself describes the play’s situation as “this fortress of idiocy.”

If the dialogue disappoints, the design is first-rate, a cartoonish mix of blacks, whites, grays, and the wearing of violent red lipstick. Visual artist Keith McIntyre creates a comic-book-like set, full of skewed angles and flat props drawn in outline. This environment—aided by Jeanine Davies’s lights and Catriona Maddocks’s costumes—proves far more interesting than the script’s anti-fascist, anti-middle-class, and occasionally anti-spoiled-schoolgirl polemic. Despite its design, The Unconquered should admit defeat.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 13, 2008

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