A hubristic gathering together of disparate strands of humanity that culminates in confusion and failure, 'Babel' the perambulatory open-air theatre show does bear some resemblance to Babel the aborted Biblical tower. That's about the extent of its success, unfortunately.
The leftfield talent involved in this centrepiece to the World Stage London festival is considerable: it's a co-production between the innovative Battersea Arts Centre and Wildworks, the theatre company responsible for Port Talbot's Michael Sheen-starring 'The Passion'. Bright sparks like Shunt co-founder Nigel Barrett pop up in the 500-strong, part community-sourced cast. But Wildworks and co have created a remarkably bathetic spectacle.
It's essentially a riff on the Arab Spring delivered with the sanitised élan of a propaganda video or Disney theme-park ride, and most of 'Babel's first hour is taken up by trooping into Caledonian Park and being greeted by garishly dressed cast members (in this respect it's strangely reminiscent of Bestival).
The drama, such as it is, comes in the last 45 minutes, when Barrett's paranoid security chief declares that the townsfolk must move their homes away from Caledonian Park's giant clock tower. One man refuses to leave his home and is dragged away. But then the people protest, Barrett's forces switch sides, and tyranny is defeated with blithe ease.
As a spectacle 'Babel' has its moments: a parade of glowing house-shaped lanterns, some neat projections on the tower. As a drama it verges on asinine.
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Average User Rating
1.8 / 5
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I have never been moved to comment on a production before, but this was a truly dreadful evening, and to top it all ruined a pair of perfectly decent trainers because it entailed slopping about in mud - no warning that wellington boots were the only suitable footwear in the advertising. Shameful, I feel angry about being 'had' more than a week later
Had its moments, overpriced and wouldn't travel too far for it, but as it was on my doorstep glad I went.
I agree the plot was simple and naive but last night on a beautiful evening Babel made for an enjoyable and interesting experience. Attention to detail was made and the live music and singing was excellent. £10 tickets might have been the winning factor as £25 would have been way too much.
It seems I stand alone here, but I found Babel inspiring. I think (the below) people seem to have missed the point with immersive theatre. I personally felt compelled by the action, from the participative lead up to watching the drama unfurl around me. The muddy/boggy park and blustery conditions, far from hankering the performance, made me buy into it that much more. Before going, I was concerned that a lack of structure might lead this to descend into farce but an equilibrium was found between structure and natural progression. People expectiing, or used to, traditional theatre probably won't find this sort of entertainment all that appealing, but it struck all the right notes with me (as did the impromptu swing ensemble post-performance!) Good to see entertainers trying out new things. I look forward to seeing what follows.
Very disappointing, especially to hear that a huge amount of money was spent on such a terrible production. The concept was exciting and it could have been inspiring and original, but the direction and the execution were woeful. Reading some of the comments below before I went last night, I had low expectations, and I often disagree with reviews. But it was shockingly bad, over-simplistic, patronising and amateur, and I feel compelled to write a bad review. I just hope that it didn't cost around a million quid to put on, a rumour I heard. Wish I had gone to a decent production, the cinema or the pub. If you are thinking of going - DON'T!! Sorry!
I went last night and it was hard to tell that there was actually a theatre performance going on in any structured narrative sense. Most of the actors seemed to have the job of weirding people out by adopting eccentric personas. The crowds and mud made it hard to find the magic in the experience. Overall I felt hugely patronised, and, as someone who's always lived in London, it felt very anachronistic to treat multiculturalism as if it were something exotic. I was given plasticine and a lollipop which added to the sense that this was a lesson in respecting other cultures for the under-10s. Other than this it felt like a low key disorganised free music festival.
Went to opening night and couldn't disagree more with comments below.I felt part of the show and I liked the visuals. The show makes u think.
I Agree very patronising. You can interject and audience/cast do not know whether you are apart of it. had to stop myself shouting burn it down. Set fire to him first etc etc big joke as mobs do not behave in a pc way Many people left early mainly actors left.
Agree with all below, had the potential but was woeful. I didn't really know what w going on, and I'm pretty sure I was laughing in the serious bits. Loved the live music and the choir
Unfortunately, I couldn't agree more with Andrea and the Dissapointed Theatre Lover. Extremely dissapointing, especially for this kind of price. Sorry. U
Such high potential...such low result! This show is a great example of site-specific theatre not working - so much so it could be a case study. This piece didn't come together on most levels. The plot was over simple and the script was embarassingly bad. At one point I felt I was being preached to. I thought they might start singing 'Kumbaya' at another. While there was some nice imagery, you can't pin your entire show on a nice clocktower in a park...
Went with great expectations to the preview yesterday and left feeling incredibly disappointed... I don't want to be rude but I shouldn't have paid to watch this. It had a lot of potential, amazing venue at Caledonia Park, good sound system and projection equipment but it was totally wasted by the theatre company and I find really sad and frustrating that all the Tweets that agree with me (which are lots!) don't seem to stand out in Twitter as much as the organizer's tweets.... So sorry but this is simply the worst play I've seen in my life.