B, Royal Court


Chile has suffered regular bombings since 2005. Unlike the current spate of terrorism the UK is experiencing, more than 80 disparate, domestic anarchist groups have claimed responsibility for these actions. Disaffected by the government and inspired by those before them, they continue to plant their homemade explosives around Santiago.

In Guillermo Calderon’s B, two young anarchists want to let the world know they’re pissed off, but they don’t want to hurt anyone. With most of their comrades in prison, they want to cause a bit of destruction – but just a bit. They just make some noise. But the stranger the hire to help them has different ideas about what constitutes effective political action.

The crux of the story is the clash between old and new activist ideologies, but the clumsy dialogue and lengthy stretches of inaction make the script feel slow and overwritten. There is plenty of tension that manages to keep things interesting on the surface, but there’s little underneath that challenges preconceptions about these terrorists. They come off as spoilt and moaning without any particularly concrete goals. If the point is to ridicule this stereotype, the writing and/or translation don’t go far enough.

Chloe Lamford’s set design does well to compensate, however. The concrete shell of a house held fast by a web of scaffolding shows Marcela and Alejandra’s helplessness and frustration in the face of laws and social mores. They are well and truly trapped. Like a fly in a spider web, the more they struggle against their environment, the more miserable and tangled they become.

It’s difficult to empathise with generalised characters who comes across as comparatively privileged, but this may be an issue of translation and/or cultural differences. Though it’s great to see Chilean writing on the Court’s main stage, B lacks clarity of intention and genuinely engaging characters. If it is trying to moralise about either these terrorists or the society they live in, or something else entirely, it mostly fails to do so.

B runs through 21 October.

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