Friday 9th August 2019 at the Camden People’s Theatre, London.
Sam Rees’ Where is Ban Ki-Moon? is one of those intriguing productions which manages to transform entirely between beginning and end. The method behind the madness is revealed and the details which alienate suddenly endear and ingratiate; assumptions and reactions to characters are likely to be flipped; ambiguity lifts and the fragmented narrative gradually and cleverly clarifies.
We meet two characters – a couple played by Rees and Hannah John, directed by Pip Williams. One is all talk, all the time, the other silent and insular. He’s abrasive and manic and more than a little unstable. Using a mic with no sense of its volume, he strikes the ears rather painfully at times as he delivers angst-ridden spoken word segments about his frustrations within his relationship with silent woman. To be honest, he’s not very likeable and it’s easy to make conclusions early. What’s great to see is how those impressions evolve over time as the piece becomes increasingly poignant and deeply insightful.
Sound design is perturbing and distracting in places which is disappointing. The roughness of the man’s state means that sections of the piece are inaudible and the off-the-cuff style adopted means the lacking clarity endangers investment in places. Thankfully the strengths in writing and performance shifts the balance in the right direction overall.
The namesake of Ban Ki-Moon is present via an email chancer. In his disarray and alienation, our slurring, stumbling man finds strange connection with the individual masquerading as a hopeful promise in the name of a controversial figure. It’s in his dealing with Mr Ban Ki-Moon that our troubled character distils his isolated experience and gradually begins to unpack his trauma. It’s an oddly understandable dynamic by the end of it all, and that’s perhaps the greatest beauty of this piece, that for all its wild early detail, it’s in the conclusion that the true power is discernible, we just have to be patient enough to await the answers.
Where is Ban Ki-Moon? is a bravely uninhibited piece of theatre, drawing from a wide array of performance elements and styles and with particular strength in its use of physical theatre elements. Rees’ disjointed and perplexing narrative is dynamically delivered by a capable cast and evolves entirely within an hour, proving itself both intelligent and poignant.
Where is Ban Ki-Moon plays Camden People’s Theatre until 10th August 2019 and you can find tickets here.