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Archimedes’ Principle

SOPHIE MEADOWS reviews Josep Maria Miró i Coromina’s most recent play.

Archimedes’ Principle explores the circumstances around the accusation of a young, male swimming instructor, Brendan, of inappropriate sexual behaviour towards one of his pupils; the alleged event was reported by a little girl, and supposedly happened to a little boy, Andy. As the enraged parent points out when complaining to the manager, ‘when a child is involved, you can’t help but distrust the adult’.

Cleverly structured, so that the events prior to the accusation are slowly revealed, the consequences of the scandal are not the play’s focus, and neither is whether Brendan is guilty or innocent.

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Whilst Archimedes’ Principle’s immediate concern is ‘What happened with Andy?’ the play explores, more significantly: the fine line between tactful and incriminatingly tactile; the accelerated speed at which an alleged ‘fact’ becomes an accepted truth in our internet age; and the mistrust with which we are inclined to treat people, in an increasingly paranoid society.

The relevance of these provocative issues seemed lost on the woman, who I heard after the performance, grumbling that the play had been ‘too middle class’ for her to enjoy. The play’s setting of an instructor’s locker room is deliberately constricting, but the play has much wider implications such as the problematic conflict of the ‘better safe than sorry’ mantra, versus that of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

Despite the four actors’ considerable talent and Miro’s intelligent dialogue, Archimedes’ Principle loses its strength towards the end, and to use Brendan’s term becomes a bit of a ‘shit-storm’; as a result of continual shouting and several overly-affected scenes (including a painfully unlikely and far too well-timed description of a reoccurring dream), it begins to lose its impact, subtlety and wonderfully eerie dynamic. As a result the ending is disappointingly overdone.

Overall Archimedes’ Principle remains, however, a clever and insightful investigation into predominant cultural issues, conveying how paranoia breeds paranoia, and is well worth a watch.

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Archimedes’ Principle is showing at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park. For more information, click here http://parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/archimedes-principle