Park Theatre’s new season opens with the world premiere of The View from Nowhere, a new play from Chuck Anderson based on the terrifying (and true) fact that many chemicals used in food production have side effects we should really be worried about.
Prez is a biochemist with a committed team of young scientists around him in his lab working on experiments that seem to show a leading herbicide is carcinogenic. His findings show it causes sexual abnormalities in frogs and there is evidence it pollutes the environment and affects humans too.
The company that makes the herbicide have offered to fund his research, claiming they are interested in transparency of findings as they face a class action. Prez happily accepts the funds but does taking the money mean he will have to keep quiet about his findings?
The play is a four-hander; Prez and Sandy are the scientists committed to their lab; Tom is a biochemist employed by the herbicide company and Rona is the PR expert brought in to manage the company’s reputation.
Mensah Bediako is Prez, the flamboyantly dressed, dreadlocked scientist; he embraces the character and presents him convincingly as the head of the lab, adored by his students and inspiring their unquestioning loyalty. Emma Mulkern is Sandy, the brilliant researcher who runs the lab while Prez takes on speaking engagements to present his controversial findings. Bediako and Mulkern present the strong bond formed between colleagues working long hours in the lab and the sometimes unhealthy obsession with proving their point.
Nina Toussaint-White plays Rona, the unemotional Director of Corporate Affairs unfailingly loyal to her employer and obsessed with protecting their interests at any cost, even if that means destroying Prez’s reputation. Math Sams is Tom, the scientist employed by the company who engages with Prez in the hope of understanding his findings as a fellow scientist and challenges Rona’s company loyalty.
The View From Nowhere touches on very current issues but left some not fully explored. Prez’s family life outside the lab is mentioned but not developed and Tom’s conflict as a scientist in the pay of a corporation seemed an interesting aspect that would bear more stage time. Rona and Sandy are presentations of two very different women in the workplace; a brief conversation between them felt it could have been further explored.
The tale and characters in this play are fictional but the issues raised about environmental threats from chemicals are real. Eight out of ten humans have minute traces of a potentially dangerous herbicide in their urine. An ingredient in a leading weed killer used globally in food production is currently under investigation by the European Commission to consider whether it is carcinogenic. The decision is anticipated later this year.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Photo: Jamie Scott-Smith