Building the Wall at Park Theatre
The year is 2019. The president of the USA has been impeached after an unspeakable series of events. One citizen, Rick, whose political views are closely aligned to those of Trump, is awaiting sentencing for committing the crime of the century. Gloria, an African-American historian, is the only person he’s willing to talk to about his story. He’s surprised to see she’s a black woman. Over 80 heated minutes, Rick reveals his truth, warts and all, in Robert Schenkkan’s edgy and exceptional new production Building the Wall.
The first half of the play is considerably less compelling than the second because one can only listen to the alt-right’s angst for so long. We learn about Rick’s personality through Gloria’s probing questions, which are often revolved around the “why” and the “how” behind the man’s prejudices and actions. His responses are the typical right-wing ones heard throughout the last two years. It just takes a quick browse of a political forum on Reddit or any Twitter thread to sum up everything this character has to say.
The second part, however, is when Building the Wall really ramps up the tension, as we learn that next year’s America has spiralled down into hell on Earth. Schenkkan’s vision of what Trump’s country is in 2019 – based on the president’s current rhetoric on immigrants and border security – is one of the scariest dystopias imagined in a while only because it feels so close and frighteningly possible. Rick being an ordinary guy who gets empowered by fascism is a somewhat worse ordeal than the government’s actions because, as we see now through marches and other forms of protest, it’s what the citizens will do in such a time that will really make a difference.
Trevor White embodies Rick in maybe the best rendition of a character that the theatre has ever seen. Angela Griffin is his match as Gloria, so convincing and sympathetic as a person who could spill the beans out of anyone. The Park Theatre’s glass cell set-up boxes them in and lets them cast a spell over the audience watching them. Building the Wall is depressing but essential viewing. A startling sign of the times.
Photo: Mark Douet
Building the Wall is at Park Theatre from 2nd May until 2nd June 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Building the Wall here: