"an unconvincing quest for change"
by Jen Soame for remotegoat on 21/08/17

The blurb for Against could not be more misleading. There’s talk of rockets and space, a billionaire’s quest against violence; these ideas only touch the surface of this compound production. Ben Whishaw is a bright light in a pessimistic landscape looking towards a bleak future.

Engineering billionaire Luke (Whishaw) is instructed by God to ‘go where’s the violence’. He leaves his pioneering technological projects for a pioneering idea of his own – to explore the nation, from college campuses to prisons, and eliminate the violence within them. A journey on behalf of others merges with a journey of self-discovery and in opening the country to a positive way of thinking, it inevitably also breeds resentment.

Against is formed of many layers. The surface concerns a man wanting to change the world. Deeper it tells the story of humans wanting to feel connected, to feel important and to be able to communicate themselves. At a fundamental level, it speaks of love, acceptance, self-discovery and truth. Luke attempts to bring people together with a common idea, or in fact in opposition to an idea, but the human spirit still drives an opportunity to create a hierarchy of importance and selfishness. In needing to be heard and release pain, it’ll talk over overs and, in effect, cause pain. The protagonist here is even to blame for this, seeking remedy to his own flaws but in fact protected under a shield of altruism, and instructed by God no less.

At a sprawling run time of over 2 ½ hours, it is unclear whether these ideas come across coherently or whether they’re over complicated. Whishaw is great as the confused, driven, emotionally awkward yet empathetic Luke. The supporting characters are varied and cast well including the excellent Amanda Hale as business and personal partner Sheila. The set is sparse and effective and the direction good.

Against plays on the idea that the tech-heads in Silicon Valley can change our world by offering us something new and changing how we do things. This is an interesting foray into an alternative side of this, but the play itself won’t be changing the world.

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