Theatre: Earthquakes in London (National tour)


Earthquakes in London, currently on a national tour, is having a quick stop this week at the Richmond Theatre. It is an engaging and and entertaining take on global warming, political activism and childbirth. It seems even more relevant in the week that the population hits seven billion and the world teeters on the brink of economic collapse that these big issues are up on stage. They are made even more palatable with a great pop/rock soundtrack, dance, movement and some pretty sharp and incisive dialogue. The neuroses of the country are on show warts and all at times, and we're even told that we are all c--ts and / or we are fucked... Now that is my kind of play...
The set spins and projections fly across the very basic yet effective plywood set. This minimalist aesthetic matches a simple story about a scientist Robert who sells his principles and takes a job working for the airline industry. Upon his wife's death he abandons his three young daughters. Fast forward twenty or so years and the three women have new problems. The eldest (played by Tracy-Ann Oberman) is a Secretary of State in the coalition government. The middle daughter (Leah Whitaker) is pregnant and confused (although I thought those two things went together??). The youngest (Lucy Phelps) is a student / full time protester. Her performance with two male dancers at a street protest wearing tight Lycra, skimpy outfits and flashing bare flesh highlights that good production values are really missing from street protests such as Occupy the London Stock Exchange nowadays.

The story brings together their personal drama with the wider environmental catastrophe that is heading our way, if you believe that sort of thing. But it culminates in a rather unsatisfying conclusion. The last twenty minutes feel like the play has gone the way of the planet and given up, but until then it is such a good story. It is a shame that things get so literal and long lengthy speeches attempt to explain what is probably not necessary to cover. I think audiences are smart enough to work things out for themselves nowadays.

The play premiered at the National Theatre in 2010 and is written by Mike Bartlett (who currently has playing 13 at the National Theatre), and seems to be quite an interesting and creative guy. Its directed by Headlong Theatre's artistic director Rupert Goold. It has something very interesting to say, but perhaps it didn't need to say it for so long. Nor send its audience out in silence after arousing our interest for so long... Well at least make us sit up and take notice of the issues at stake...

It runs until the end of the week and the tour continues elsewhere until 12 November. First impressions, outside the Richmond Theatre at interval (which rather topically is over the flight path for Heathrow where planes land every two minutes) with @johnnyfoxlondon are as follows....

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