Don John (Lowry, 7th March 2009) Red Riding (C4, 5th March 2009)

“Deliver us from evil” a character in Red Riding quotes from the Lord’s Prayer. “Hell” flashes above the stage at the conclusion to Don John at the Lowry. This is the nineteen seventies in the North of England.

In these two productions, the seventies has become very bleak and dark. Channel Four’s Red Riding piles on the images of a world that is desolate and where there is no hope. The Gypsy camp which has been destroyed by arsonists is shown as a war zone. Indeed, at one point a character comments that the scene is one from the Vietnam war. Camera shots focus on concrete and in one sequence the main character walks through a multi storey car park and we are aware that the slabs bear down on him. The whole programme is shot in browns and beiges, with limited colour, the most startling was the red coat of the missing girl. Red Riding is violent and brutal and a place of no hope.

Don John is also violent and brutal. Raping and murdering to get his kicks, the character of Don John is more of a representation of all that is wrong with society, rather than a fully rounded character. He hides in the shadows of the run down buildings ready to pounce on his next victim. The production opens with strikers dressed all in black. Was this to show that there is little hope? Surely strikers are about trying to make life better.

Don John is set in fairground and we are taken on the ride. Unlike Red Riding, there is hope. In the encore, Gisli Örn Gardarsson who plays Don John comes back on stage and takes the hand of a member of the audience and they dance , and then other cast members invite members of the audience to dance with them.

I’m not sure why the seventies has become the setting for such a dark world as the seventies was a world of contrasts. For example, punk rock was existed alongside Abba. Life on Mars played with this world. It was a bigoted world, but it was the world of colour in contrast the gray of the world of rules and regulations of the modern day. Both Don John and Red Riding contained strong narratives and the seventies becomes a vehicle to depict narratives that show there is a hopelessness in life, but behind this there seems to be a glimmer of colour somewhere.

Reviews and Previews

Preview: Don John, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Le…
Don John: Not so much high art as trash culture…
Don John at Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-A…
Don John, Northern Stage, Newcastle (From The N…
The Stage / Reviews / Don John
Charles Hutchinson reviews Don John (From York …
Don John, Courtyard, Stratford
Loot, Tricycl…

Don John, Northern Stage, Newcastle (From The N… / UK – Don John
Don John, Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avo…
Review: Don John, Northern Stage, Newcastle – J…
Don John: Not so much high art as trash culture…

Don John Knee High Red Riding RSC

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