The Low Road by Bruce Norris at the Royal Court – Review

I went to see The Low Road at the Royal Court last night.

I saw Bruce Norris’ previous play Clynbourne Park, in the West End.It won a number of awards both in the UK and when it transfered to New York and discussed important and controversial issues surrounding race, particularly relating to how race is perceived in the USA. Despite being a very enjoyable play I didn’t love it and I can’t quite even remember why.

The Low Road is also full of big ideas, and the cast size and production scale mirrors this. It is fundamentally a parable, mostly set in the late 18th Century, about capitalism. It follows Jim Trumpet, an orphan who is abandoned at the steps of an Inn/Whorehouse. He is taken in by the establishments proprietor, who believes him to be the bastard child of George Washington.

The play discusses a range of topics related to capitalism including why do the same market crashes happen over and over again and what does the Occupy Movement really want to say. I did feel that The Low Road was definitely imbibed with the spirit of the Occupy Movement.

I feel that the Occupy Movement is misinterpreted, precisely because it became a large, worldwide, populist political movement. As soon as a movement becomes populist, it’s aims become broader and often get lost in translation. The Occupy Movement even has it’s own role in the play. In one scene we fast-forward to the present day and a business conference in London which is invaded by Occupy protestors.

The play tries to cover a big theme and is consequently is a little too long. It does however make some excellent points about why capitalism isn’t working, best summed up by the often quoted line said by the blind preist Nathaniel Pugh (played by Ian Gelder): “Tis one thing to admit the inescapable cruelty of nature, friend, but quite a different one to encourage it.”

The large cast is excellent particularly Jonny FlynKobna Holdbrook-SmithElizabeth Berrington, Natasha Gordon and Ellie Kendrick and the play makes for a very entertaining and stimulating evening. If you are anything like me, it will leave you with a lot of food for thought.

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