The Crime of the Twenty First Century (2001)

‘The Crime of the Twenty First Century’ by Edward Bond (April; THEAtre SPACE @ The Mint, Dublin) (WP)

We presented this important new work in Ireland in the THEatre SPACE @ the mint from April 9th to 28th 2001.

Edward Bond’s ‘The Crime of The Twenty-First Century’ is a unique work set in a world where humanity battles to define itself in the face of a ubiquitous oppressive force. A plot summary is contained in the Irish Times review below. It was an extra-ordinarily demanding but deeply rewarding play to work on. The entire process left us with a much richer vision of why we work in the theatre and for that we are grateful.

We worked closely with Edward Bond on the production (via correspondence) and his insights and wisdom were invaluable to us. We brought him over to Dublin (his first visit to Ireland) where he gave a talk at Project, saw the play, and spent a few days with us visiting Joycean Dublin. It was revitalising and encouraging for us that Edward Bond was deeply taken with our production of his play.

Its reception in Dublin by the reviewing media left much to be desired in terms of understanding, with only one reviewer taking the time to contextualize the work in a milieu other than that of art-for-entertainment. The excerpts from reviews that follow are representative of the general media reaction.

Cast:¬†Anna Swords-Murphy (Hoxton); Andrew Buchanan (Grig); Steve Gunn (Sweden), and Yvonne O’ Hara (Grace).

It was directed by Peter Hussey, with Paul Winters designing lighting, John Doheny designing set, and Laurence Hamill designing costumes. Bonnie McCormick was Stage Manager and Eileen Fagan Lighting Operator.

Review extracts

“The plays of veteran British dramatist Edward Bond have not received much exposure in Ireland, although titles such as Saved and Narrow Road to the Deep North resonate down the years. Crooked House Theatre Company is now presenting his most recent work, The Crime of The Twenty-First Century, which premiered in Paris in 1999; and it is something of a conundrum.

It is set in the aftermath of a war, and opens with a woman living in the ruins of a house which still has water, now a scarce commodity, on tap. A scavenging man tags on to her for a while, to be succeeded by a younger man, an escaped prisoner on the run. He has cut out of his body an electronic army tag, and wants the woman to accompany him on his flight. She refuses, and he leaves.

Next she is discovered by her daughter, who believes herself to have been callously deserted and seeks some kind of revenge. An explanation is offered, and the two settle for a while. The fugitive returns, hideously blinded by soldiers, and all the relationships take a darker turn. There is violence and death, and it ends on an odd note of anti-climactic ritual. It is clear that the author intends his play to be deeply meaningful, and to explore issues such as justice, freedom and interpersonal dependency. Little of this comes across as the characters address each other in artificial dialogue and the plot becomes steadily more improbable.

For me, director Peter Hussey and his actors – Anna Swords-Murphy, Andrew Buchanan, Steve Gunn and Yvonne O’Hara – have created a diligent production of a leaden, pretentious play.”

– Gerry Colgan, The Irish Times (April 13th 2001)

“Edward Bond’s play hits all the notes one would expect in an ode to the atomic age. The struggle to survive is mitigated by the unwilling but unavoidable need to bond with fellow survivors; the need to protect one’s territory is therefore complicated by the need to engage in human contact; a raffish charmer comes on the scene and promises to, and does, all the sorts of bad things you’d expect a raffish charmer to; violence breaks out as man proves he’s only an opposable thumb away from bestiality, and there’s only one guy left in the world, on his own, hollering.”

– Susan Conley, WOW!

“Crooked House have made an admirable foray into territory that is well beyond the theatrical comfort zone.”
– Irish Theatre Magazine

“In those two hours I learned more than I would in a week living under a plastic sheet in the streets of Dhaka. This was a visit to the global backyard that I won’t forget for a long time.”

– Audience feedback, 12 April