If you ever experienced the adrenalin of a Quasar or Alien War birthday party as a child, part of you is going to love Our Days of Rage, a play by the winners of the Write to Shine competition, at the Old Vic Tunnels (until 15 September).
‘Security guards’ hustle us in, then lead us from cavern to cavern, past hanged prisoners and corpses in bathtubs. One moment we’re in Tripoli, guiltily leaving the scene as a dissident journalist is dragged away kicking and screaming. The next we’re in London, pinned between pro- and anti-Gaddafi protestors, riot police blocking our escape. This is brilliantly done: all the thrill of danger — without the danger.
The pretext for our adventure is less inspired. Libyan-born Hanna stumbles into a dry cleaners beneath Waterloo run by bomb-making anarchists. She exchanges her suit jacket for a video of The Thief of Baghdad, which sets off a series of flashbacks. Daniella Isaacs, as Hanna (above), convincingly mutates from businesswoman into little girl within seconds. But her flashbacks appear calculated less to make sense of Hanna’s predicament than to broach all the big issues of the moment — suicide bombers, quantitative easing, the Arab Spring, even last month’s riots — while saying nothing controversial about any of them.
Ironic, then, that the final scene — an ‘Art of Protest exhibition’ hosted by the World Bank — should parody this selfsame calculation on the part of corporate ‘outreach’ programmes.
The play ends with a bang. But it has self-destructed long before.