Archimedes’ Priniciple by Josep Maria Miro i Coromina at The Park Theatre, Finsbury Park
This show is performed in a minimalist setting (just two wooden benches and two lockers). The dialogue carries the weight of the production with the actors exposed to the scrutiny of the audience.
The idea of a security-obsessed, fascist society underlies much of the play. The line, “when a child is involved you can’t help but distrust adults” is a reminder of how paedophilia could be the perfect foil for governments to invade personal privacy.
With its sparse setting, the production invites the audience to take part in the debate. Spectators must weigh up and judge for themselves the case for and against Brandon, a handsome swimming coach, accused of kissing a boy on the mouth.
The play manages to place us in the uncomfortable position of Anna, the centre manager, whose job is to interrogate Brandon about the allegation.
Should we take his rule-breaking behaviour, for instance, smoking in the locker room and references to child sexuality – “these days twelve year olds know a lot more” as evidence of a perverted character?
This is the dilemma faced by Matt, Brandon’s colleague. In a finely-tuned performance by Matt Bradley-Robinson, this creeping sense of unease is evoked. Forced to examine his own identity and protect his reputation, the character of Matt carries shades of Nazi style collaboration with the ‘accusers’.
Anna, the manager of the centre, (convincingly played by Kathryn Worth), is forced to confront her own past, (i. e., the death of her son). Worth conveys Anna’s tortured soul as the nerve centre of the debate. She is placed in the impossible position of having a duty of care, not only to the children but also to Brandon to whom she is obviously attached.
The writer uses paedophilia to explore the deeper issue of our hyper-vigilant and security obsessed society. With the motif of a dramatic blackout dividing each scene, and repeated time shifts, there is this sense of history of repeating itself.
The warlike atmosphere between the staff of the centre and the others (i. e., children and parents) is disturbing. Some people may be unwilling to allow paedophilia as a tool for a political debate around civil rights. Aren’t the rights of the children more important than concerns about civil liberties?
Coromina’s script manages this delicate balancing act somehow, the strength of the script is that it succeeds in posing strong arguments for and against Brandon.
We are hardly surprised when the boy’s father, David, played by Julian Sims turns up at the centre to interrogate Anna, and point the finger at Brandon asking “… is he gay?”
David represents public terror – stoked up by the media – at the security risk posed by paedophiles. The play asks, ‘is this interrogation justified?’
Coromina doesn’t allow easy answers. The debate about how seriously we should take a ‘peck on the lips’ by the swimming coach, particularly in the light of the Jimmy Saville affair, is not easy to resolve.
This thought-provoking play has already garnered two awards, and deservedly so. The play runs for around 90 minutes without interval. It is gripping throughout with fine performances from each of the actors.
However the drama may be better served by cutting short the lengthy elucidation of the final scene, and allowing the terrifying ending sooner rather than later.
Go see this play. You will be thinking about it all the way home.
Written by: Josep Maria Miro i Coromina
Translated by: Dustin Langan
Directed by: Marta Noguera-Cuevas and Ryan Bradley