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Review: MAKE MINE A DOUBLE - TUNNELS and PRESS, Park Theatre

Two plays showcase emerging talent but suggest that the best is yet to come

Review: MAKE MINE A DOUBLE - TUNNELS and PRESS, Park Theatre

Review: MAKE MINE A DOUBLE - TUNNELS and PRESS, Park Theatre Make Mine A Double is the catchy, and enticing, title of the season of paired plays staged in the Park Theatre's smaller space, offering an opportunity for both young playwrights and audiences keen to find the next big thing. The current offerings, Tunnel by Oliver Yellop and Press by Sam Hoare, illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of the format - both hold many points of interest but both suggest that there is more considered work to come.

Yellop's two-hander takes us back in time to the 1970s and in geography to East Berlin, where a pair of cousins (Paul and Freddie) are digging under the Wall en route to freedom. With the stifling claustrophobia, the usual concern of a young lad (Freddie) about the girl he's leaving behind and the nagging doubt that Paul must have done some kind of deal with the Stasi when he was in prison, it's a plot that twists and turns.

Lewis Bruniges and Oliver Yellop himself are a credible pair and they are aided in suggesting a divided Berlin by Niall Ransome channeling early Krautrock on the synthesiser. But it's all a little inconsequential - we're a third of a century on from that dismal DDR regime that was forgotten shortly after its demise and, while a reckoning is still to be made with abused athletes and others, one wonders whether it's worth an hour of anyone's time in 2022.

Press is set in a dystopian United Kingdom, which is anything but united having toppled into ethnic conflict arbitrated by a totalitarian government and reported by a cowed media. Writer, Sam Hoare, tells the tale, playing a cocksure journalist who uses every shabby trick of the trade to climb its greasy pole before almost stumbling into exposing an atrocity and inviting the iron fist of the state to intervene in his life and his family's.

At first a black comedy, shit gets serious (as they say), and polemic overpowers pastiche. As with the first play in the double bill, one wonders whether this ground needs to be retrod - the appalling internecine conflict in the Balkans gave many such examples and, as Suzanne Emerson's super design work shows, this terrible scenario is being played out right now in countries such as Myanmar.

I'll look for both writers' future work, when I hope they'll set their work and frame their arguments in more contemporary, more relevant environments. They clearly have much to say and the wherewithal to say it on stage - how best to get their message across is the immediate challenge.

Make Mine A Double - Tunnels and Press - is at Park Theatre until 10 December

Photo Credit: Mark Douet

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