'And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.' Act III, Scene I, The Merchant of Venice
Written in 1961, translated by Peter Borsada from the original German and rife with heavy political overtones, Andorra is - at least on paper - not the most universally accessible text. And yet, what is immediately tangible upon entering the Wickham is the sheer amount of passion that has gone into this project. From the immersive opening to the deeply enthusiastic director’s note, it is evident that this project has precipitated out of a lot of care, consideration and dedication - and it definitely pays off.
Following Andri (Adam Parsons), a man in his early twenties grappling with his identity in the face of anti-semitism and political turmoil, Andorra explores perceptions, prejudice and the ways in which ethnic tensions can escalate. Punctuated with various Andorrans’ retrospective confessions about how the events staged (culminating in a murder) were not their fault and peppered with all-too-familiar remarks about political correctness, Andorra, despite being written almost sixty years ago, really does feel like a reflection of present-day politics. Directors Dylan Sutcliffe and Clare Packham artfully guide the audience through its numerous plot twists, tackling the more gruesome moments with taste and acumen - never making a spectacle of the brutality, yet never shying away from heavy subject matter. Andorra makes for frustrating and uncomfortable viewing, but in a way that feels measured and necessary.
The cast give incredibly compelling performances all round. Special mention must go to Alicia Wakeling as The Doctor, with her darkly comic delivery and impeccable characterisation, and to Charlie Mitchell’s genuinely heart-wrenching performance as The Teacher. Meanwhile, Sophie Stemmons, Talisker Horton and Brittany Young shine in their smaller roles as The Señora, The Carpenter and The Mother respectively, balancing the more heady moments of dystopia-esque chaos with a real groundedness. But the moments where the immense talent of the cast really come through are the intermittent ensemble scenes - the frantic discussion in the town square, the stylised opening and the movement sequence closing Act I. Andorra sometimes feels slightly lacking in pace, jumping from scene to scene without the urgency the subject matter arguably demands. Given that the ending is perhaps overly-long and does not provide any real closure, I would have loved to have seen more of these moments.
Now to where Andorra is perhaps strongest: aesthetics. Under the creative eye of Teja Boocock, the production design is absolutely stunning. From Lucie Morgado’s gorgeous set, filling the expansive Wickham Theatre with bright greens and deep reds, to Hiranya Griffith-Uuny and Sara-Robyn Pang’s 80s-inspired lighting design, rife with geometric shapes and bold colours, Andorra is a visual treat. All this chimes perfectly with the synthy sound design, conjured up by Issac Lawrence-Thompson and Maddie Bowers, which is a real feast for the ears and well beyond the calibre of a student production.
Overall, Andorra is an ambitious project pulled off with verve. With its superb aesthetics and timely subject matter, it is both a well-rounded piece of theatre and a chilling testament to how far humanity sometimes has to go, albeit at times lacking in pace and energy. After its four-day run at the Wickham, Andorra is off to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer; it is definitely one to watch.