The Ripple Effect was commissioned by the ATG Foundation – the charitable arm of the Ambassador Group, which runs the Empire, as part of the London 2012 Festival, to celebrate the Olympic Games. Sounds good, right?
Where fellow Merseysider Frank Cottrell Boyce was part of the team who managed to turn us from a nation of cynics to having us crying out of our noses with pride as the youth of today lit the Olympic torch last Friday, The Ripple Effect pretty much did the exact opposite in the same amount of time.
The concept of this play was rather exciting, given that the Empire is not usually a venue to experiment with new writing. Acclaimed playwright Ursula Rani Sarma, who has written for the National Theatre among others, worked with young actors up and down the country to devise the show, which had a broad premise of the divided society of a post-apocalyptic Liverpool (I guess this is adapted according to the venue, as this piece was meant to tour other ATG venues).
An uninspiring, lacklustre script peppered with a handful of unnecessary musical numbers was over-earnest, unconvincing, and a good half-hour too long. With plot holes you could drive the proverbial bus through (or maybe, this bus), bad dialogue, bum notes and a real lack of dramatic tension, this was the kind of production that would try the patience of an audience of saints. (“I’ll be fine,” mumbled one character who was about to be beheaded, in a bid to soothe an upset friend).
Quite what any of it had to do with the Olympics wasn’t exactly clear, either.
Liverpool has a vibrant young theatre scene – the Empire’s Stage Experience summer school is one shining example — and of course, it always seems churlish and not a bit mean to deride the concerted efforts of the city’s next generation of up-and-coming talent. This is not meant to insult the performers, who did the best they could. But this project seemed like little more than a school play, rather than something with established professional guidance under the banner of the biggest show on earth. A shame.