Set during the London protests of 2010, the award winning Crushed depicts the lives of three university students over the course of several years. A story of lost innocence, we watch the friends fervently unite over a political cause, before entering the working world where they succumb to political apathy and the numbing influence of the daily grind.
Crushed is a political play, but seems broadly disengaged with the nuances of reality. Everything feels reduced to its lowest common denominator. Parenthood is presented as either a cumbrance or a obligation, easily dissolved (a father is told he has missed his child’s first birthday; they laugh about it over dinner); careers are trivial or absurd contributing only to spiritual entropy while life itself comprises a series of self-deluded cop-outs. Indeed, the play even presents the student rebels in hugely dubious terms. Sam treats the protests as a dating opportunity and Amy is seduced predominantly by the drama of the whole thing, seeing herself as a Joan of Arc. Hannah is, admittedly, an idealist but so overbearing in her views, that she becomes walled by them.
The end result is a far-reaching cynicism. The show is framed by rhyming choral songs whose purpose seems to incite change in the audience. Yet, given that the play has spent a good hour undermining most courses of behaviour, we’re left between a rock and a hard place: idealism is shown to be self-gratifying but ineffective; careerism, a soul-destroying compromise. Crushed manages to feel puzzlingly defeatist and didactic simultaneously.
At times the play flirts with some interesting ideas, particularly when exploring the symbolic bartering between an individual and their political cause; in some respect, each of the characters gives themselves over to the crusade, yet each subtly takes something as well, whether a sense of identity or simply a moment of exhilaration. One gets the sense that if the script narrowed its ambit, it could plough these concepts more deeply.
The portrayal of student life is well-observed and often very witty. In particular Hatty Jones (who plays Amy) serves as an excellent comedic foil; whether she’s speaking through a fog of inebriation as a student, or cloaked in professionalism, her performance is consistently hilarious. Both Tim Cook and Amani Zardoe breathe life into their parts and often seem convincingly familiar.
Ultimately, this is an enjoyable play that has some great moments, though one that fails to make a convincing statement. 2.5/5
Review written by Sean Gilbert.
Crushed is currently showing at the King’s Head Theatre until Sunday 1st November. For the more information on the production, visit here…