Dirty Market's devised play, Be Good Revolutionaries (at The Ovalhouse until 23 June) is about the impact of ideas adopted and ideas betrayed. Its power comes from the ordinariness of the characters' hopes and fears and how they are perverted by their situation - hiding out in the forest with a father / husband absent, fighting in the guerilla war that rages all around them.
With echoes of Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, Anna (Juliet Prague) drills her two daughters and one son to behave with military discipline to the shrill piping of her whistle. She is trying, and failing, to be the father, missing in action, whom the they have turned into a cult. Red (Francesca Dale) dreams of a life of parties and cocktails in the city; Emilia (Laura O'Toole) is animated with a religious fervour to believe in the revolution's rhetoric of the promised utopia; and Curly (Alex Britton) wants to become his father as as his adolescence comes to an end. Dysfunctional, yes; but this family is getting by.
Until Jean (Liam Clarke) arrives, a bleeding casualty of the war, at their door (as Martin Guerre does in the film - Liam Clarke even looks like Gerard Depardieu). Catching Emilia's name and improvising a backstory with just enough detail to make the family, so desperate to believe in something, to accept that he is whom he says he is - a compardre of the man whom they venerate. While Jean fractures the family by showing each of them a glimpse of that to which they aspire, his alter-ego Dark (Citlalli Millan) the eldest sister who escaped the house to find the father, but who never returned, lurks about unseen, a witness to the real war which one surmises a chancer like Jean cunningly avoided.
The actors are supplemented by the music and songs of Rebecca Thorn, lending an ethereal, almost fairytale quality to the house in the forest, but one is always aware that the children are too damaged and then too manipulated by Jean for them to escape a Lord of the Flies style denouement. Which duly arrives.
Co-directors Georgina Sowerby and Jon Lee have created an eerie, serious reflection on the impact of political revolution on intimate family life. With revolution in the air across much of the Arab world and beyond, it's a reminder that slogans taken at face value by those without the perspective to question them, are as dangerous as the guns and bombs that back them up.