IT may be 20 years old, but Edward Bond’s Have I None has not lost none of its edge, bleakness, nor nastiness.
Set in 2077 – when much of the country lies in ruins, is overseen by some unseen brutal authoritarian force, and personal possessions (forms of memory) are frowned upon – the play centres upon the fractious relationship between Sara (Emily Wickham) and Jams (Ben Jacobson).
Sara spends most of her time at ‘home’ fretting over the fact that someone keeps knocking at her door – ‘go away’ she pleads. Jams works in ‘security’ which means going out on patrol and keeping control over whatever vestiges of society remain (an old lady stumbling among the rubble carrying a picture). Orwell’s 1984 seems a holiday camp compared to Bond’s 2077.
You can cut the tension between the pair with a knife. Conversations are sparse and monotone, but a volcanic eruption is never far away, with arguments stemming from the tritest of issues – sitting in each other’s chairs, kicking each other’s discarded shoes. Sad, tedious lives. Banal.
The tension is then ratcheted up when Grit (Brad Leigh) pitches up after having walked the length of the country to get there and seen some unspeakable things (people jumping off bridges and committing suicide en masse). Grit claims to be Sara’s brother – Sara does not believe him despite the evidence of a photograph of the two of them.
It all gets rather messy – and dreamlike- as paranoid Jams and brainwashed Sara plot to poison the irritating and unwelcome Grit. But who really wants to kill whom? It’s not as simple as it first seems.
Bleak fare from the pen of Bond, but the three actors respond commendably to the play’s many challenges – a sparse stage, a terse script (understandable given the dreadful world being portrayed) and little delineation between scenes, time, reality and dreams.
Jams is a dreadful robotic human being, but Jacobson gives him a sprinkling of mocking humour (a John Cleese walk). Leigh’s Grit is the warmest of the characters, a lone voice standing against authoritarian rule. Chippy and with his personality still intact.
Wickham’s Sara is a sad soul who has had life squeezed out of her like juice from an orange in a blender – although the dream scene where she is dressed in a cloak bedecked with spoons is quite splendid.
If 2077 is as bleak as Bond paints it, I’m just glad I will not be around to see people commit mass suicide. At 50 minutes long, it will not submerge you into depression. Indeed, it will make you realise that life could be much worse than it is (any links between the play and where we are with Brexit, as Bond has suggested in recent weeks, are quite ridiculous).
Have I None, directed with aplomb by Lewis Frost and a Four Points Theatre production, runs until May 4. Good fare. Fast food theatre. Food for thought.