DC Moore’s new play, ‘Common,’ is a bold attempt at an Epic English History play, exploring a fascinating period in the early nineteenth century when the common land was being enclosed and violent protests ensued. However what is most exciting about the play is its linguistic ambition.

DC Moore has invented an organic jumble of poetic speak, part Shakespearean, part street talk with deliciously earthy metaphors and plenty of swearing. Whilst there are many moments of wit and superb performances from the cast, Jeremy Herrin’s production fails to rise from the dry earth plastered across the stage.

Anne-Marie Duff gives an admirable performance as Mary; narrator, protagonist, psychic and Devil. She strides onto stage in her dramatic red dress coat and introduces herself, ‘If I were a man, you’d call me a rogue.’ She also takes on the meta-theatrical musings, ‘Once you lie something’s real’ and drops out of scenes to address the audience directly throughout, ‘ We’re not here for reasons of dry historical accuracy are we sir?’

Whilst parliaments decision to enclose the land Parish by Parish, significantly increased productivity, for all but the privileged few it removed autonomy and a stake in the land. Many would go on to work in cities as the Industrial Revolution took hold. The enormous upheaval in the lives of the common people who often still believed in magic and witchcraft lead to violent protests and pagan inspired rituals. As a subject matter it would seem to offer drama enough but the ensemble scenes do not achieve the sense of threat and tension. While still images of the land workers, often in silhouette are often very beautiful, they remain flat and lifeless it feels like they are in a tech rehearsal, marking positions rather than fully inhabiting the scenes.

There are many rich ingredients in this production but some major flaws. Structurally unbalanced, there seems to be too much exposition, an interesting but slightly tiresome first half followed by all the action rapidly tumbling out after the interval as scenes of extreme violence (think slippery human guts) are mixed with hellish proclamations.

Anne Marie Duff has an enormous task on her hand. Not only does her character, constantly question her own reality but she regularly steps out of it into ours before plunging black into the drama. She is sly, funny, powerful, seductive and brutal in turn but the many striking moments don’t bind together to reach the Epic ambition of this new work.
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