Absurdist Activist might not “gast your flabber”

The Activist is a new play written by Brasenose student Rob Williams. The story centres around five characters, all of whom are involved in a planned bombing. The intially straightforward set-up gives way to a complex and intriguing plot; secrets are hidden, truths are discovered and suspicions of betrayal abound. What’s more, the activists are not just violent militants – they are a family. At the heart of this play is the tension of strained familial relationships.

The real beauty of this play is in its language. Williams’ script is filled with poetry, from such playfully alliterative phrases as “bubbling bumble bee”, to the subtle rhyming of “floors, walls and doors”, not to mention the entertaining use of words like “kerfuffle” and “flabbergasted”. Williams confidently plays with words like a maestro, joyfully contorting them into a symphony of linguistics. The cast is well chosen to speak his lyrical prose with eloquence and energy. One character delights the audience with his wordy, fast-paced speeches and at one point exclaims with gusto “You’ve really gasted my flabber!”

Beneath this layer of beauty however, is something darker. In the opening scene language is crafted into something Beckettian: conversations go in circles and exchanges are repeated, highlighting the sense that the characters are trapped.  The pacing is quick and unnatural, bringing attention to the tension between characters. As the sense of inevitable tragedy grows, the tone shifts into something akin to Greek tragedy. In the final scene a haunting figure on the stairs recites a monologue of violent poetic imagery with an eerie disconnection and transcendence from reality, like a twenty-first century Medea.

The confusing plot and complex language of this play may threaten to alienate the casual theatre-goer, and the sensitive viewer may be dissuaded by the descriptions of violence. However, for those with an appreciation of words finely sculpted or those who like their theatre on the side of absurdist, this original play is a feast of delights.

-Alexandra Christy

PHOTO/Mirjam Frank


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