Poena 5X1, Edinburgh Review

© Richard Davenport

How do you stop an adversary that doesn't have any boundaries, or lives by any civilised rules? Written by Abbie Spallen, her fiercely intelligence play Poena 5X1 asks these and other pertinent questions.

Playing Bryony Adams, a government scientist assigned the task of finding an effective bio-agent against terrorists, Cathy Conneff is a calm, collected presence onstage as she gives a presentation to the audience. Although a 'cool' presence initially, small incidents like the breaking down of her slide projector start to grate on her, creating cracks in her unflappable personality. As the technology lets her down, Adams is forced to improvise and her methodical report of Patient Zero (who was subjected to the Peona 5X1 virus) becomes more detailed, her account of him and the following events more personal.

This viral agent doesn't kill. There are many other things available that could do that. No, Poena reactivates a person's worst fears, damnation brought about by oneself. It is the arena of the mind that the West seeks to subjugate, as it combats the proselytising of extremists... and other undesirables... It is also down this slippery slope that an Orwellian future lies...

Underpinning Adams' actions is her desire to stay with her child, but as her 'close friendship' with assistant Lucy shows, nothing can be taken for granted... There is an anecdote that Adams' quotes twice, explaining succinctly by what lengths and means freedom in the past had been achieved. However, there is also an aphorism by Frederich Nietzsche that sums up the moral paradox that individuals and the state are subjected to in the play: “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster... for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

If you liked the ethical dilemma's raised in Dennis Kelly's Utopia, you'll find Poena 5X1 a rewarding and thoroughly entertaining play to watch.

© Michael Davis 2016

Poena 5X1 runs at Underbelly Med Quad (Venue 302) at 15:20 (1 hour) until 29th August 2016.


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