What Yale doesn’t answer is the imperative question: why? Why are the homosexual characters so mistreated? Why are the other characters so prejudiced, in particular the ‘British’ characters who are themselves immigrants?
The result is a production that’s all surface and proves to be too shallow. There is no depth to the characters, they are simply flat clichés who speak in clunky dialogue – Danielle Lautier’s police officer Emma Clarke, for example, is too concerned about paperwork and watching a dog on Britain’s Got Talent to care about the case at hand, with little reason for her prejudice besides a couple of bruises from the arrest. This extends to the direction – one scene sees a man being beaten accompanied by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way that simply comes across as trite. Moments like this are clearly meant to be provocative, but are meaningless through the lack of in-depth connection with the subject.
On a technical level too, the script is essentially two interrogations in parallel that move along at a sluggish pace. For such an intense and harrowing plot, there is a lack of urgency and tension, whilst the actors have difficulty embodying such clichéd characters.
In The Thrice Ninth Kingdom is undoubtedly a timely production, the programme notes going to great lengths to contextualise the story with detailed research. Yet laying out the facts in the programme isn’t enough. By failing to fully engage with and question the subject matter, Yale fails to present a unique or thought-provoking viewpoint. Instead he just aims to shock. It might be based on nightmarish truth, but this play doesn’t feel believable.