Words by Danyal Ahmed Khalik
Almedia’s recent play, Albion, is fantastic drop of poetic that smoothly works on a variety of diverse levels in terms of its exquisite nuances, allowing it to interrogate ideas relating to nationalism, nostalgia and domestic dysfunction. At its core, the play is situated inside the English countryside- a metaphor for Brexit one may speculate. It offers something greater than a rehash of classic World War ll tragedies, including one scene that witnesses Anna (Vinette Robinson), forcing the soil of her dead boyfriend’s ashes up her vagina.
Audrey (Victoria Hamilton), a fifty-five-year-old successful business- woman, makes the conscious decision to replace it all for a mere garden. With this, she drags an array of other lonesome figures, most of whom all end up in a symmetrical fate: isolation, fear or failure. But irrespective of her narcissism, a central trait of Audrey, Almedia’s predominantly left-wing audience were still able to sympathise with her. Fundamental to this boils down to the fearless strength of her Victorian middle-class ethos that she caresses so intimately. Indeed, it most definitely is courageous to cloak oneself traditionally in the ever-frightening postmodern world that (supposedly) celebrates cultural diversity- one that continually seeks to challenge earlier English traditions. Yet, where is this demarcation between English tea, emblematic of national pride, versus the self-interest choices of Audrey, representative of British imperialism? Indeed, conflating the two triggers the consequence of being headless to the current socio-political climate by romanticising a nostalgic past- the same doctrine that precipitated her fatal flaw.
But Audrey is deserving of more respect than Zara (Charlotte Hope) and Anna whose decision making, throughout didn’t coincide with the formal structure of the play. Zara’s lesbian relationship with her mother’s “best-friend” struggles to fend off conservative attitudes of sexuality but functions only as a shock tactic. Likewise, her resolution to detach from Catherine is also debatable. Is it likely that a young-adult from the twenty-first century wouldn’t care if her image had been permanently tainted online? I think not. Anna, too, can be scrutinised for being glued to past. Her choice to return back to the countryside without concern for her child’s future is highly problematic and selfish to say the least. For what reason? Simply to be in the vicinity of her boyfriend’s ashes that she, rather abruptly, forces up her genitals.
Nevertheless, the play charts itself nicely as a successful hit of 2017 London theatre productions. Although the play generates huge political statements, it ought not to be seen as simply a broken nation with a ‘leave or remain answer’. It is beautifully articulated, one that that synthesis the past, present and future within the domestic spheres more broadly in the current national climate.