Rare Earth Mettle, Royal Court Theatre, review: a muddled drama smack dab in the middle of a truly heinous mess

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Rare Earth Mettle, Royal Court Theatre, review: a muddled drama smack dab in the middle of a truly heinous mess

Al Smith’s new play about ethics and geopolitics, which sparked a controversy over harmful stereotyping before it even premiered, is intriguing but too broad in scope.

It’s impossible to separate Al Smith’s new play about ethics, environmentalism, and geopolitics from the controversy it sparked before it even opened.

Rare Earth Mettle’s main character, a narcissistic, megalomaniac tech billionaire with a lust for money and power, was named Herschel Fink, a clearly Jewish name, perpetuating an anti-Semitic stereotype.

The Court issued a clumsy apology for “unconscious bias,” insisting that the character is not Jewish; the theatre has since spoken with Jewish artists and community leaders, and will reportedly issue more updates later this week.

Meanwhile, Smith has renamed the character Henry Finn and the show has premiered.

Although his play is not anti-Semitic as it currently stands, it’s difficult not to believe that it was tainted by racism, or at the very least, ignorance and gross insensitivity, at the time of its creation.

However, despite being heavily polemical, it is an interesting and ambitious piece.

And the sprawling action is kept zipping along with comic-book verve thanks to Hamish Pirie’s production.

Finn is played by Arthur Darvill, who is all wisecracking arrogance, entitlement, and swagger, similar to Roman Roy in athleisure wear.

He’s discovered that the Bolivian salt flats, which are littered with rusting trains abandoned by 19th-century British mining operations, are rich in lithium, which he requires in large quantities for the batteries that will power his new, environmentally friendly supercar.

He isn’t the only one who has his sights set on the prize.

Anna, a British doctor, wants the lithium for a mood-stabilizing drug, which she believes will be a huge boon to the NHS, while a local politician sees it as a way to boost her presidential campaign.

The salt flats, however, are home to an indigenous community, including Kimsa and his daughter Alejandra, who live among the corroded locomotives, scraping by on tourist dollars and unaware that the poisonous legacy of Western exploitation – mercury used in mining to strip the land of minerals – is killing Alejandra.

The striking opening image of Moi Tran’s stylish design is a huge glass orb suspended from a swinging rod, spilling powder – part globe, part.

UK news summary from Infosurhoy

Rare Earth Mettle, Royal Court Theatre, review: a muddled drama smack dab in the middle of a truly heinous mess

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Rare Earth Mettle, Royal Court Theatre, review: a muddled drama at the middle of a truly ugly mess

Lesley Lemon, Jaye Griffiths, Racheal Ofori, Marcello Cruz, Ian Porter RARE EARTH METTLE by Al Smith ; Production ; Directed by Hamish Pirie ; Set Design by Moi Tran ; Lighting Design by Lee Curran ; Movement Director: Yami L??fvenberg ; Assistant Director: Camila Ymay Gonz??lez ; Royal Court Theatre ; London, UK ; 10th November 2021 ; Credit and copyright: Helen Murray Rare Earth Mettle Royal Court Theatre Credit: Helen Murray Provided by RosieEvansHill@royalcourttheatre.comRead More - Featured Image

Rare Earth Mettle, Royal Court Theatre, review: a muddled drama at the middle of a truly ugly mess

Lesley Lemon, Jaye Griffiths, Racheal Ofori, Marcello Cruz, Ian Porter RARE EARTH METTLE by Al Smith ; Production ; Directed by Hamish Pirie ; Set Design by Moi Tran ; Lighting Design by Lee Curran ; Movement Director: Yami L??fvenberg ; Assistant Director: Camila Ymay Gonz??lez ; Royal Court Theatre ; London, UK ; 10th November 2021 ; Credit and copyright: Helen Murray Rare Earth Mettle Royal Court Theatre Credit: Helen Murray Provided by RosieEvansHill@royalcourttheatre.comRead More - Featured Image

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