Howard Barker’s The Castle is a tough nut to crack. From a man who claims not to ‘ involve myself in political and ideological issues’ as he stated in an interview in The Guardian last January, his play, The Castle, sure features enough ideological discussions to keep a crowd of people arguing long after last orders have been called. The play, written in 1985, features aimless female protagonists whom continuously contradict themselves, in harmony with popular critique of second wave feminism, and a complicated battle between the genders over power, social status and religion. Many ideas are introduced, such as the total reform of patriarchy as we know it and the notion that a world run by women would be a socialist paradise with no governing structure. However none of the themes are discussed at length because that would contradict Barker’s policy of being un-influential.
The cast does a decent job of delivering the complex text and frequent curse words break up the otherwise dry and formal language of the play in an effective manner. Some scenes fall flat because of lack of harmony between the actors and the story could also benefit from more energetic storytelling. Actors shout frequently without the scene having necessarily provided the tension to justify the character’s anger - it therefore comes across as insincere. The staging is dynamic and interesting and the compilation of set and light play well off each other regardless of what appears to be a very limited budget.
Anthony Cozens’ s portrayal of the cuckolded Stucley is incredibly powerful. Stucley’s almost comical short temper is highlighted as he grasps at regaining power, coming only slightly short of fascism when he manages to reinstate the power of the church. Chris Kyriacou is also noteworthy as Krak, the pained engineer of the castle, adding tension to a scene with the character’s pregnant silence. A few themes from the story have left a lasting impression such as the scene where Stucley confronts his wife, Ann, played by Shelley Davenport, about her affairs with other men while he was away. ‘I could kill you and no one would bat an eyelid’, he shouts, a striking reminder of the dangers of domestic violence which endangers the life of many women today. Or the way Ann can not stop procreating even though she is way past her childbearing age. For someone who claims not to be political, Barker is eerily topical at the very least.- Dísa Anderson