New World Order – Hydrocracker, Shoreditch Town Hall, Running until 11 December 2011
Winding from the ornate meeting rooms and private recesses of power, where bureaucrats discuss policy and the media is entertained, down to the bowels of the building, through long forgotten corridors where concrete crumbles away from the walls and barren rooms echo to the sounds of clanking boilers and the scurrying of mice; Hydrocracker have created a staggeringly potent panorama of institutionalised state power, a lucid dream that unfolds to reveal nightmarish dimensions.
New World Order is an amalgam of five of Harold Pinter’s shorter work, deriving from his later period where his output began to more directly engage in questions of politics and control. Despite being a playwright who took fastidious care over every element of the script, it is hard to believe that Pinter, the political animal, would not have given his support to Ellie Jones’ superb reimagining that knits together five separate pieces so effortlessly that the joins between the work are made practically invisible (the only distinguishing mark being subtle changes in the linguistic character of different scenes).
Most impressive is the use of location to create a unity of action. Site-specific and immersive productions may have boomed in popularity in recent years, and as a result become short hand for companies wishing to demonstrate their innovation, but none has managed the unification of text and place that Hydrocracker have achieved through locating their work within Shoreditch Town Hall.
It is an inspired choice and the building is absolutely integral to the success of the piece. As the audience is led through the site, it becomes a living, breathing character of its own. Everything about the building exists in a contextual history of real politics, so when the audience halt on a staircase to let two policy wonks, deep in conversation pass, it is shocking to realise that rather than discussing the minutiae of planning regulations, they are in fact debating how many opposition supporters can be dealt with before they lose support of the general public.
Hydrocracker has clearly understood that location is everything. Led past a plaque detailing all the former mayors and into a conference room set-up for a press conference, the audience are reassured by familiar sights of the political establishment and are empowered to embrace the realism of the situation. It is only when people begin to speak that everything reveals itself to be off-kilter, and from that point on the audience are drawn ever further into the world of state-mandated terror.