Arthur’s World Review
Review of Arthur’s World for Children and Young People Now Magazine
Arthur’s World is a beautiful immersive theatre set which transforms the Bush’s theatre’s upstairs attic space into OAP Arthur’s grotty council flat. Even at the point when I showed my ticket and was told to hang my coat and bag because of restricted space, I knew this was going to be an interesting experience.
I had chosen to sit right next to Arthur’s armchair when Arthur started baking a birthday cake for his son, Michael. He talked about missing Michael and his distinctive knock at the door – but when the knock happened, it wasn’t Michael. Instead, it was Kino, a boy in a mask, armed with a meat cleaver and knife, seeking refuge from “The Fights”.
Once Michael has arrived, these are the three people we spend the play with and over the next hour their relationship to each other changes as they reveal how The Fights really started. The play makes us think about how we relate to each other in a society where we are labelled in real life but can hide online, where no one knows who you really are. The play’s observations on violence and gaming feel familiar – yet as it develops, it’s clear that the story takes place in an intensely alternate reality.
Arthur’s World is introduced to us as the name of the card game which all three characters play as they sit together for cake. Then Arthur is shown the online version of Arthur’s World and we realise that the card game inspired a phone game, which got played for real on the streets. The fighting outside reveals that the game has come to life in a frightening way that makes us think back to how some young people took to the streets during the 2011 riots. The lines between reality and imaginary become blurred as we start to question if Michael is really dead.
At its heart, the play explores identity – the masks we wear to look cool, and the scared little kid inside us all. Kino is the white kid “trying to be black” and Michael is the “coconut” – neither of them is comfortable in their own skin. This is something we can all relate to because at some point, everyone has felt like they don’t fit in. The question of who is “for real” and who is faking it is also relevant to gaming.
Ultimately, the only thing we know is real in Arthur’s World is the need for a genuine human connection. That’s a powerful message especially living in a technology driven society. When Arthur finally gives “Mikey” the hug he came back for, it kick starts a game world of green lights and magic.
I loved everything about this play. The writing was absolutely beautiful and I totally believed the world created by the set and words. And I’m still puzzling over what was real and what was not.
All three actors did brilliantly well, but the innocence of Joseph Tremain as Kino stood out for me.