Alan Ayckbourn's Epic 'Divide' Disappoints
You have to admire Alan Ayckbourn. At 78 years old, after more than 80 plays, he’s undertaken a work of size, sweep and ambition. But with “The Divide,” a two-part, six-hour and aptly-titled epic premiering at the Edinburgh International Festival, he’s split his focus, straddling between prose and drama in a darkly imagined but uneven dystopian story. Think Dickens meets Atwood, with a touch of Bronte. While sometimes intriguing with some compelling performances, it is more often simply bloated and befuddling.
Here Ayckbourn returns to the sci-fi mode of earlier plays including “Henceforward” and “Comic Potential.” The play opens with a brief “lecture,” set many years in the future after “the fall of The Divide,” where the narrative premise is explained.
Back in the 22nd century, we are told, a devastating plague caused the near-collapse of the male population. Since infected women were blamed, the result was a new male authoritarian era, creating the geographical separation of the genders and making same-sex relationships the law of the land.