BWW Review: Barbara Hammond's TERRA FIRMA Takes It's Cue From A Quirky Bit of International Politics
It may not be recognized by the U.N., or by any other nation, but ever since 1967, when squatter Paddy Roy Bates, a retired British army major, declared it so, the Principality of Sealand, located on an abandoned British fort built in international waters off the coast of Suffolk during World War II, has its claimed sovereignty.
It has its own constitution, its own currency and even its own website.
Inspired by this quirky bit of international politics, playwright Barbara Hammond has penned Terra Firma, a fictional play set after a great war in a not-too-distant future, which serves as the first of three productions scheduled for the premiere season of The Coop, a new theatre company whose artistic director, Andrus Nichols, was a co-founder of the award-winning theatre troupe, Bedlam.
In terms of design and execution, the company is off to a solid start. Andrew Boyce's impressive set is a rusty steel deck set atop two (unseen) 60-foot concrete cylinders to represent the human-made terrain of the squatted nation that gives the play its title.
King Roy (Gerardo Rodriguez) may come off as a regular working class lug, but his wife (Nichols) really gets into her role as queen, sporting a tiara and flashing a regal wave wherever she goes.
While the queen is busy drafting a constitution, hoping to provide a firm ground for her only heir, the teenage prince (Daniel Molina), the king and the country's only non-royal citizen (John Keating) interrogate a hostage (Tom O'Keefe) who has inadvertently wound up in their waters. He's very good at chess, this hostage.
Coop's promotional material pushes Terra Firma as a Beckettian work and though director Shana Cooper has a fine cast working on an absurdist level, the play trudges on with its antics for 100 slow intermissionless minutes.
There's are obvious messages involved when the prince returns from afar with what might be the last bit of the planet's greenery, and when a wandering diplomat (T. Ryder Smith), responding to messages in bottles, arrives to negotiate the hostage crisis, but with Terra Firma, a good deal of talent is put to work on a play that seems still in the work-in-progress stage.