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Review: Building the Wall, at Park 200 Theatre

Superb performances in timely, political drama set in a Texan prison in 2019

10 May, 2018 — By Lucy Popescu

Angela Griffin as historian Gloria in Building the Wall. Photo: Mark Douet

ROBERT Schenkkan paints a terrifying portrait of America in the near future – a hate-filled dystopia where, in certain circles, the anti-immigrant rhetoric has reached epic proportions and erased all reason and compassion.

Set in a Texan prison in 2019, Rick (Trevor White) is interviewed by Gloria (Angela Griffin), an African-American historian who wants to understand his motives for an abominable crime against humanity.

Rick, a proud Trump voter, was in charge of a private prison. In the wake of a terrorist attack in Times Square, Trump declared martial law. Anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant was rounded up and thrown into detention. Rick’s facility became a deportation centre where legal and illegal immigrants, felons and undocumented aliens were incarcerated together.

Trevor White and Angela Griffin in Building the Wall. Photo: Mark Douet

Held in appalling conditions, overcrowding led to a cholera outbreak. Corpses multiplied and had to be burnt. The number of detainees swiftly became unmanageable and Rick was instructed to deal with the problem.

Sarah Beaton’s brilliant set encloses the pair in a transparent glass box. As Rick’s story unfolds, he prowls around in his orange jumpsuit like a caged animal.

Rick believes he has been condemned for following orders, a cog in the machine, and yet he is clearly culpable. Gloria manages to extract from him a chilling confession.

Part of what makes Schenkkan’s timely, political drama so watchable are the superb performances. White, especially, is scarily credible, capturing the many contradictions of an ordinary man who has committed unspeakable acts.

Jez Bond’s impeccable production does not miss a beat.

020 7870 6876


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