Review: BEIRUT, Park Theatre

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Guest Blog: Nia Morais on Her First Play IMRIE, Welsh Fantasy and The Dark FantasticIn a world filled with destruction and misery, can love still prevail? When the whole of society has ostracised you for a spur-of-the-moment decision, how do you find your new place to exist? And if the odds are stacked against you, do you fight or just give up?

These are some of the many questions asked in Alan Bowne's epic play, which sees two young lovers fighting hard to be together, whilst a deadly virus sweeps the country, killing a large majority of the population. The sexually transmitted disease attacks the body relentlessly, causing lesions to form and skin to peel away - rendering the carrier suffering a horrific death.

Those infected have been segregated in Beirut, a run-down area where people are left to rot and suffer. Sex has been curfewed and excessive searches take place every time you drop your pants. The 'unwell' are allowed no contact with those that are healthy, and it's this that provides the drama in Bowne's one-act story.

Torch (Robert Rees) lives alone in his flat. It's more of a squat really; rubbish litters the place, there isn't much furniture and it has an unpleasantly dank feeling surrounding it. He's alone; the only interaction he has on a day-to-day basis is with a guard that gets off on looking at his naked body, as he perversely checks to see if the disease has progressed.

Torch seems to have settled into this mundane way of existing, but it all changes when his lover Blue sneaks into Beirut to be with him - a decision he outwardly hates, but secretly loves. Played by Louisa Connolly-Burnham, who makes her stage debut, Blue is a fiery and feisty young woman who wants things her own way.

She's unfazed by the virus; the only wish she has is to be with her man. But how can Torch let that be? How can he sit and watch the person he loves slowly be destroyed by an illness he transmitted to her? The heart says one thing, but all logic says another.

Robin Lefevre's production is an intense rollercoaster that hits you with so many feelings. The direction is aggressive and the movements are highly physical. The pair literally throw each other about, and Rees and Connolly-Burnham both give 100% commitment throughout. Leaving nothing to the imagination, everything is laid out onto a plate for the audience to see.

One thing's for sure; this isn't a conventional love story. But it's one definitely not to miss.

Beirut at the Park Theatre until 7 July

Photo courtesy of Beirut the Play



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