An American Nightmare
Thu 12 Sep, The Other Room Theatre, Cardiff.
The Other Room theatre in Porter’s Lounge in Cardiff is known for showcasing new and alternative productions, and An American Nightmare blends into that ethos seamlessly. Well, it blended as much as something that arresting and unique can do with such striking, abstract, engaging staging and content. It is part of a trio of dystopian dramas, called The Violence Series, of which American Nightmare is the debut as well as writer Matthew Bulgo’s masterpiece.
An American Nightmare was like watching a real-life episode of Black Mirror unfurl, staged and acted so tightly that I felt swept up completely in the narrative as it developed, as clueless as the characters of what was transpiring – information is drip-fed expertly. It is directed by Sara Lloyd, one of Wales’ most established theatrical directors, and intricately examines the notion of The American Dream – or perhaps, it dismantles what remains of this meritocratic ideal no longer exemplary to modern America, and the world at large.
There are two settings. The first is on a slanted, elevated stage: the top of a skyscraper in New York, where two people have met to discuss some sort of high-stakes business deal. The second is on the front of the stage: a room with two single beds and two people, and that’s it. Think slightly comfier looking than a prison cell, but only just. Then there’s the omnipresent third setting – a projection on the wall of a figure of authority who ties together the two settings.
The use of audiovisuals is very successfully done, with a montage of war-like imagery that relates to the not-that-impossible dystopia in which the play is set. It delves into questions of human nature, and the boundaries of humanity when human dignity is threatened. The characters are believable from beginning to end and the energy on stage is palpable (and extremely impressive).
There are twists and turns – some literal gasp out loud moments – and it is wonderfully unpredictable. A refreshing, thought-provoking, intellectual thriller that starts off The Violence Series with a bang (literally).
words Megan Thomas
An American Nightmare is on until Sun 29 Sep at The Other Room. Tickets: £10/£12. The Violence Series continues into November. Info: www.otherroomtheatre.com