"War is not much fun"
by Owen Kingston for remotegoat on 09/03/15

To be clear from the outset, Badac's "The Flood" is not a fun night out at the theatre. There is nothing fun about this harrowing, horrifying, post-traumatic-stress-production of a play that Badac have created, and at best you will leave feeling emotionally battered - nerves jangling from the fifty-minute long unrelenting onslaught of pain and suffering that constitutes "The Flood". You have been warned.

For all that, I would not miss the opportunity to see this remarkable exploration of the horror of the First World War. If there were any justice in the world, "The Flood" would be assured it's place in history amongst the very finest theatrical portrayals of the horrifying reality of war, but as the piece itself makes very clear, there is no justice in the world.

Sadly, it is far more likely that this remarkable production, staged as it is in a corridor of a difficult-to-find community centre in the middle of a run-down estate by Elephant and Castle, will pass largely unnoticed by the London theatre establishment, just as it's nameless protagonist stands for the millions of unremarkable dead of that great 'war to end all wars.'

Staged with beautiful Grotowskian simplicity, "The Flood" uses only that which is essential to tell the story. Small pieces of bloodied meat stand in for the soldiers who are sent to the front, on the sound of a whistle they are literally hurled at a wall while the staccato rhythm of a machine gun is battered out by a knife on a metal table, then they are collected into a bucket by a nurse who proceeds to sort these little chunks of flesh into dead and wounded piles, sending some 'home' while others are stitched up with a needle and thread before being literally thrown back into the fray once more. Between these frenzied episodes of violence, the two characters - a nurse and a solider - exchange 'letters' where we learn of their love for each other, meet for the occasional snatched moments on 'leave', and share dreams and visions of a life together that we know, tragically, will never come to be. These stream-of-consciousness style performances, while initially unnerving, do a superb job of conveying the desperate barrage of emotions induced by the horror and insanity of life on the front line.

This desperate human story is expertly woven into the larger narrative of the war by the repetitive cycle of violence and waste that we know is coming yet desperately want to avoid. Both the length of the show and it's repetitive nature have been criticised, yet they are essential to the honesty of the piece, and it is alarming how quickly one becomes desensitised to this harrowing portrayal of unrelenting pain, misery and death.

"The Flood" is the closest thing to Artaud's vision for a "Theatre of Cruelty" that you are likely to experience. It is difficult to watch, at times both emotionally and physically painful, yet socially and politically important and tremendously moving. The growing NEET generation is proof that we have not yet learned the lessons of the early twentieth century with regard to wasting young lives and robbing people of the hope of a future. Badac's work here, whilst not enjoyable in the truest sense of the word, is timely and relevant. You should not miss the opportunity to experience it.

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