A Shiny Life For Me!

a personal review blog by Bianca

Power of Sail

Power of Sail
26 April 2024
Menier Chocolate Factory
3.0 out of 5.0 stars

Power of Sail’s European premier ran at the Menier Chocolate Factory from late March to mid May, a hectic moral play on free speech, extremism, and the effects of supposed cancel culture.

Harvard university, tenured professor Charles Nichols, known for his study of the far right in America, is in hot waters after inviting a notorious white nationalist Benjamin Carver to a debate on campus. Despite students staging protests, and his colleagues and friends, including faculty dean Amy and former student turned celebrity academic Baxter, urging him to cancel Carver’s appearance, Nichols perseveres, claiming that “more speech” is the answer to hate speech and that open debate in the name of free speech stands above everything. But he clearly has an ulterior motive as of yet undiscovered by the audience.

Charles’ teaching assistants are divided on the upcoming debate. Maggie opposes the right winger’s appearance but is unable to convince the professor, while white, somewhat incel coded, Lucas seems all too excited about the opportunity to meet Carver.

Every character in this play seems to have hidden motives that muddy the waters of an interesting thought-provoking starting point. Is giving a controversial figure a platform inherently bad, or is engaging in open debate the only way to challenge their exclusionary and harmful views? Is censorship ever appropriate? Does barring certain viewpoints from debate only give them more power to take root and radicalise people?

Had Power of Sail focussed on these talking points with a more delicate hand, rather than delving into a maze of complicated plot twists, darker hidden motives, and heavy handed moralising, it could be a great moral play to shake up debate. But as it stands, there is just too much happening and not enough focus, to the point of dampening its own plot twists down to middling impact due to there being too many of them.

Still, it’s an interesting, contemporary play with a lot to say!

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