Review: The Point of No Return by BeFrank Theatre

The Point of No Return follows BeFrank‘s tradition of verbatim theatre, based on real-life interviews with a range of people on all sides of modern stories of conflict. This show tackles the recent events in Ukraine, pre-empting the current crisis, in which Ukraine’s position as the geographical and ideological pivot between Russia and the West divided the country.

The show follows the story of a group of protesters in 2014 in Maidan Square in the capital, Kiev – the focus of the rebellion against the policies of the government – and of the police, ordinary men and women ordered to contain and control them. While BeFrank pride themselves on not telling their audience what to think, not casting ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters, but instead provoking debate on the complex rights and wrongs of any given situation, this story was almost impossible to present in this way. Yes, as an audience, we got to see the human face of the police, their conflict between obeying orders and attacking their own fellow-citizens, but there was no doubt as to who the baddies were – the politicians, intent on furthering their own cause, with no respect for the people they were elected to represent.

And that is no bad thing. A story without heroes and bad guys to empathise with or feel outrage at, is one with which it is difficult to engage. And thus The Point of No Return was more engaging than other shows I have seen by the company. One left the theatre with the conviction that those in power have a duty to serve those they represent, and that any other choice inevitably brings with it terror and conflict.

The cast was solid, with each member ably playing characters on all sides, shifting between them suddenly and seamlessly. But it was the girls who stood out. Luiana Bonfim as idealistic rebel, ‘Stella’, and ruthless ‘Minister Y’; and Jodyanne Richardson as Lecturer ‘Mrs.C’, unwillingly caught-up in the conflict through her empahy with her students, and Stella’s grandmother, begging her grandaughter to stay out of trouble. Both actors really brought their characters to life and gave them a complexity beyond the writing.

The show was performed in a pretty bare black box, with a few well-chosen props and pieces of costume to illustrate characters and scenes. But the direction was a little messy and over-reliant on classic theatrical ‘tricks’ to prod its audience into reaction. I would also have liked a little more of the wider picture, framing the play and giving it context by informing the audience of the run-up to and aftermath of the events portrayed.

BeFrank are developing a style of their own and, while it may not yet be honed to perfection, with every production they grow and mature as a company. I will be very interested to see what subject they tackle next.

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