Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs at the Southwark Playhouse
Ginger Hibiscus | Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs at the Southwark Playhouse
Ginger Hibiscus | Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs at the Southwark Playhouse
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21 Jul REVIEW: Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs at Southwark Playhouse

From a grubby bedsit in industrial Huddersfield, Malcolm Skrawdyke watches the thick, black cloud of another new year roll in, combine with the smoke hanging in the air and smother him with dissatisfaction, frustration and catatonia. Angry at the teacher who unceremoniously booted him out of art school, boredom focuses his rebellious mind on change, and he sets about forming a new political party with himself as the figurehead, seeking power for power’s sake and turning his artistic talent to creating the kind of propaganda that would befit his Party of the Dynamic Erection.

Little Malcolm1 Photo Thomas ScurrA witty exploration of phallus-centric politics and authoritarian regimes, Little Malcolm offers more than a little food for thought, as he “struggles against the eunuchs,” or rather, struggles against any human lacking in the penile department. A nod to the notion that politics is just a penis-measuring exercise, with policies formed by, and for, men (particularly during the pre-Thatcher era Little Malcolm is set in), David Halliwell’s play also considers how dictatorial power is obtained – and maintained. With clear parallels to Naziism and the rule of Mussolini, the allegorical tale serves as a reminder – a warning – of what happens when people pursue ultimate power, and the possible consequences of a disaffected youth.

This point of disaffection is as timely today as it was when the play was written, the rise of IS attributed, in part, the disillusionment and alienation within some, particularly young, subsets of communities. And it’s impossible not to think of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian gunman responsible for killing 77 people, having distributed his own fascist manifesto and preparing for the attack since his very early 20s. It’s a disquieting pattern of discontent and reaction that replicates itself inexorably, across cultures and civilisations, brought to the fore in Little Malcolm.

A play that hits all the cerebral targets, relevant, well-thought-through and deeply satirical, Clive Judd’s direction affords Little Malcolm some much-needed energy, and gives depth and grounding to what is ostensibly a glorious flight of fancy on the part of scriptwriter Halliwell. Yet a play that is, on paper, so exciting, turns to tedium by virtue of the run time.

At just 10 minutes shy of 3 hours, and an at-best leisurely pace, the script cries out for the unforgiving pen of a brutal edit (despite already being only a fraction of its original 6 hour (!) run time). That’s not to say that David Halliwell’s script isn’t engaging or beautifully-written, but that there just isn’t enough content for a 3 hour play. Light on action, the script itself would be an excellent read, enjoyed over 2 or 3 sittings, picking it up and putting it down like you might a novel, and revelling in Halliwell’s dexterity of language. But presented as a play, a pair of fresh eyes are needed to scrape away the fat, skim the more meaningless tangents away and give a renewed focus to the piece, slimming it back to what it does best: being a discerning portrayal of the rise of fascism.

For tickets and information:
Venue: Southwark Playhouse, The Little
Dates: Until 1st August 2015
Images: Thomas Scurr

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
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