Earthquakes in London Review
Under Rupert Goold’s directorship, Earthquakes in London gains a level of intensity which bolsters the intimacy of Mike Bartlett’s script. The central theme of the play is global warming and its social, moral and political implications, examined through the chaotic lives of the protagonists. Initially, the audience is given character snap shots: Freya who is suffering from pre-natal depression, Sarah, the ideological politician, Jasmine, the angry teenager and Robert, the entrepreneurial scientist. However, as the play progresses and links are established between the protagonists, a dysfunctional family appears, exposing a dark, suppressed history. It becomes apparent Robert is being performed in flashback and in the present he emerges as the estranged father of the three girls Freya, Sarah and Jasmine. The pace quickens and what begins as a rather worn-out exploration of political and moral standpoints on green living becomes an ethical analysis of population growth. Robert, a scientist once lured by the temptations of big business, has developed an apocalyptic theory of excess population growth; he has even disowned his daughters because of the tainted world they stand to inherit.
A play with such an intricate network of exchanges requires an equally interactive stage design. The Cottesloe Theatre has been transformed into a make-shift bar with performers navigating the s-shaped centrepiece which runs from one stage to the other. At each end further action takes place, often simultaneously, as the audience watch from above, at each side. At the floor level, audience stand and sit at the bar becoming evermore complicit in events unfolding around them. For a play with a clear moral message and emotional intensity, Bartlett has in fact managed to provide many comic moments mostly drawn from his brash character stereotypes and their eccentricities. Bill Paterson, playing Robert, props up a formidable cast which includes Tom Goodman-Hill, Lia Williams and Anna Madeley. Stage starlet Jessica Raine delivers a raunchy performance full of teenage angst but it is disappointing to see her become type-cast in this role.
The principal draw back of this play, like any play which seeks to deliver a moral message, is in the climax. Without giving too much away, it is fair to say the pseudo-mythological ending is at best rather far fetched for what is otherwise a compelling and thought-provoking production.
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