After 2 weeks in Wales I had my first TEAM experience yesterday, at the Critical Chinwag for Blavatsky's Tower at Chapter in Cardiff. 

The play itself I felt was an exploration of architectural Brutalism as played out in human lives. At its heart is Mr Blavatsky, a present absence for the majority of the action. Blavatsky is the architect of Blavatskty Tower, a tower block built some fifty years ago in an attempt to elevate people closer to the angels and escape the cramped conditions of life on the ground. 

However, the tower was received poorly at the time, and, like much of the concrete post-war architecture of the UK, soon seen as an eye-sore. And so, Mr Blavatsky and his family - 2 daughters and a son - now occupy the 'penthouse' of the tower, looking out over and down on the 'Crushed' below them and attempting to prove the brilliance of his vision for the tower.

Other than the eldest daughter who has a job in an office, none of the family leaves the house. But with Mr Blavatsky slowly dying, the daughter brings a doctor home in the hope he'll be able to save her father and preserve their 'paradise' lives. 

Blavatsky Towers is an often laugh out loud funny tale of family dysfunction and social disconnection. The characters are strong and complex, the atmosphere absurdist, the tale moving swiftly between light and dark, traji-comic in its very definition. It's a Stoppard-esque exploration of ideas, reminiscent of Arcadia in the way it explores the failure that often accompanies big dreams, the loss of an imagined paradise that never was. A more concrete link can be made with Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden, in which the parents of three teenage children die at the beginning of the school holidays, and the children hide the bodies in order to avoid being taken into care. The result: a riotous summer of discovery and abandon. 

Given the children's exposure to the classics - particularly Paradise Lost; a metaphor for the entire play - their dialogue is elevated and philosophical. Towards the beginning, the daughter tells the doctor about the differences between her fathers decision not to leave the flat (a positive decision to embrace darkness, to see the light by hiding in the shadows) and those of her siblings (fear, particularly). Its one of many excellent conversations in which humour is blended seamlessly with thought-provoking philosophy and serious exploration of family dynamics. It's a riotous play to watch, and one I'd happily repeat. The characters have stayed with me, and in trying to put a human face to the sharp rise and fall of romantic brutalist architecture, the tale told is one worth listening to. If you can make it over the next couple of days, do try to get there. It's well worth seeing. 

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Interesting you refer to works such as Arcadia  and Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden which treat similar themes. What about the play’s title though? The only reference to Blavatsky I’m aware of is the spiritualist writer and psychic, Helena, who founded the Theosophy movement. The references in to visions and possible fakery make sense in the context of the role of the father Dada in the play.

Good question - I have no idea about the name Blavatsky, though your reference makes some sense. 

I also wondered about using the name 'Dada' for the father - it fits with the 'dada' art movement in some ways.

yea, 'Dadaists believed in artistic expression that appeared to reject logic and embrace chaos and irrationality' (from Wikipedia) - it fits!


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