The War Has Not Yet Started, Southwark Playhouse

by Laura Kressly

We may not be living in a war zone, but everyday life is a series of battles to be won or lost. These tiny fights may be life or death in the moment, but can feel silly, meaningless or absurd from an outsider’s perspective. This isn’t lost on Mikhail Durnenkov, who presents a sample of vignettes addressing problematic aspects of modern life, from mobile phone overuse to airport security.

The trouble is that these fifteen or so brief, unrelated scenes are so short that they are overly-simplistic, and didactic to the point they become preachy. There’s no time for subtlety or questioning the nuances in the issues raised, so the whole show comes across as little more than a list of things the writer thinks are bad.

Durnenkov heightens the absurdity enough to make some relieving moments of genuine comedy, but these do little to add any depth to his critique. Gordon Anderson uses the space well, though Bob Bailey’s anachronistic set resembling a grandmother’s shabby sitting room is a puzzling disservice to the hyper-contemporary world of the text. The barbed wire wallpaper is the only effective capture of the anti-realism running through the script.

Though good performances by an all-white, multi-rolling trio (Hannah Britland, Sarah Hadland, Mark Quartly) help assuage the annoyance that comes from being lectured, the lack of substantial commentary is frustrating. Sure, life has its problems – but we know what they are, and an episodic run down of them is more depressing than cathartic.

The War Has Not Yet Started runs through 20 February.

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