Review: Against, Almeida Theatre

TW: Violence, shootings, religion.

Against is the story of a extraordinarily rich white guy coming to save all the poor people who’ve experienced trauma in their lives. Somehow he has the ability – without any medical training – to tease all the truths of their suffering out and make their lives feel better through talking. Then he publishes these truths online for all the world to read. His mission: to make the world a better place through confession. His inspiration: a vision from God to go to where the violence is.

Now, it’s not a specific God who so inspires rich-white-guy. It’s all of the gods ever. He gets very upset when the New York Times picks him up for referencing the Bible more than the Koran. I mean, I guess that’s just a reference to the pluralist secular audience the writer is expecting to have. And that was certainly the audience at the Almeida, if the knowing laugh at secretary-love-interest’s dig at him for using the male pronoun when referencing this higher being is anything to go by. So the vision-from-any-god thing probably didn’t bother most people (even though I expect the majority thought he just had some kind of experience if they were translating it into their own reality.) But that’s all really quite a muddle.

And I just wanted people to be aware that people of faith do sit in theatres watching plays. And sitting amongst a whole audience of people sniggering at the possibility of believing in a male-pronoun God is quite uncomfortable. (Though to be fair, as an aside, while I know it’s totally possible for the all-powerful salvation through Jesus God I believe in to express truths in visions, He speaks to us primarily through his word that can be tested and contains the eye witness testimonies of the life of Jesus.)

SORRY. Back to the theatre stuff. So the whole vision thing really annoyed me. At least give the guy a specific deity. Or was Christopher Shinn too scared of offending people?

If we’re going to FINALLY admit on our stages that there are people who actually live their lives in the service of higher beings I want those stories to be full of those truths – not some pluralistic, lazy representation that this playwright has thought up.

Ben Whishaw is obviously magnetic as the tech billionaire and Amanda Hale equally riveting as his side kick love interest. And the play isn’t boring. One of his other visions is the word “come” (cum?) and then he finally gets the message to get with Amanda Hale. That was pretty hilarious.

Some of the dialogue given to the other characters though is incredibly shoddy and stereotypical. The little joke about a company called Equator with unfair workers’ conditions with a logo suspiciously like Amazon’s was a really cheap gag.

I literally have no idea why this play was called AGAINST.

The most problematic stuff about this little play was the white saviour narrative. Literally the whole story was just this reallllllllly minted guy trying to “fundamentally change the culture” of the USA by hosting little chit chats at the locations of mass shootings.



Then it starts getting REALLY rogue in the second half. Oh yeah. We haven’t even got to the second half yet.

A man who’s a terrorist (but the play never calls him one) turns up at Equator wanting to talk to Ben Whishaw. Yup. And threatens to start shooting if Ben doesn’t come out of hiding. The man who seeks out the violence really gets what he asks for. Which is not to say this part of the narrative wasn’t extremely sad and horrifying in the right ways. It was. And it was a useful reminder of the toxic masculinity impressed on our culture and the gun laws in America.

But it was all wrong too.

Our billionaire starts preaching love and forgiveness to the guy with a gun pointed at him.

The shooter’s reason for being there is that Ben Whishaw’s tech company has made such great robots that all the ordinary working people are losing their jobs. Seems legit.

The play never goes into any explanation about any of this. This play is literally all set up and no pay off. It tries to be all state of the nation and really misses the mark.

Cool cool. Until next time. Thanks for reading.

Against is at the Almeida Theatre until 30 Sep. You can get tickets if you really still want to after reading this on the Almeida website.