Following swiftly in the wake of his debut ‘Run the Beast Down’, which ran at the Finborough earlier this year, comes this assured, genre-bending follow-up from Titas Halder. Where the former was a stripped-down, one-man affair, this is a more conventional ensemble piece, but treads along similar paranoiac lines, this time in the jittery world of campus culture and the lengthening shadow of a (largely unspoken) totalitarian state.
Jumping back and forward in time, it follows the three occupants of a provincial student house. Dashing activist Aaron (Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge) clashes with buttoned-down pragmatist Marcus (Charles Reston). The former wants to start a revolution; the latter wants to get a nine-to-five and a mortgage. Caught between their affections in a cloud of ganja smoke is Grace (Rosie Sheehy). At first, friendship wins over ideological differences; then holes start getting pricked in condoms and bowls of salsa get spiked with mind-altering substances.
Hannah Price, who also directed Halder’s debut, deftly guides us through the time-hopping narrative, while Chris Bartholomew returns with another nervy electronic score. The cast get gamely stuck into the rapid-fire philosophising and intrigue. But the real star here is the writer, whose coup is to keep so many plates spinning at once: relegating the dystopian stuff to background ambiguity without it ever feeling toothless, and yoking the lighter moments with out-and-out schlock that had the audience screaming at one point. It confirms what ‘Run the Beast Down’ suggested: that Halder is a serious name to watch. Let’s hope we get whatever’s due next in equally quick succession.