Posts Tagged ‘Mike Bartlett’

Mini-review – Bull – Young Vic

January 30, 2015

I’m someone who very much will follow playwrights rather than actors from stage to stage, and Mike Bartlett is one of a handful of currently active playwrights (Neil Labute, Nick Payne) that I try to see every time they do something new. Bartlett’s forte, to me, is correctly capturing how people think and behave now, in the modern world (Contractions being another one in this vein). He’s especially talented at showing how people lie to themselves – an element I find particularly attractive in plays – and is responsible for my favorite new work of the last five years, Cock. So there was no doubt in my mind that when I was told his short play Bull was going to be making its London debut at the Young Vic, I had to go, sold-out-ness be damned. And, as I hoped, a few tickets came though before the show, though through what seemed to me like very bad luck, my seated seat became a standing seat on the day of (a mix up of some sort, I was told, that affected about 20 people).

The small space at the Young Vic has been set up like an arena for this show, with waist-height glass walls surrounding a carpeted square defined only as an office by the presence of a water cooler. This look, with two rows of spectators standing at its edges, felt very much like a boxing ring: we paid our money to watch the action. As the besuitted actors walked in and immediately began to bicker with each other, I began to feel like I was backstage at a reality TV show, but the coworkers I was watching – who were clearly, each one of them, individually dedicated to destroying the others – displayed none of the pandering, “appealing to the home viewers” attitudes of people performing on TV. No, this was more like one of those nature documentaries in which happy gazelles bound across the plains until they’re taken down by a cheetah, only in this case it was a lion/rhino/crocodile battle – all muscle and heaving violence, but fought with the scalpel blades of words. Thomas (Sam Troughton) initially appears to be the rhino, stomping in and bellowing at Isobel (Eleanor Matsura), quickly going for personal insults on her sexual availability – but Isobel completely avoids his jibes and manages to deftly point out how his style of argumentation highlights his own shortcomings. Then Tony (Adam James) appears and the full level of the head games being played comes out. They all know that only two of them will survive, and, smelling blood, Tony and Isobel are bound and determined to make sure they’ve done their best to ensure survival of themselves. Bullying, insults, bringing up a colleague’s personal life, hiding vital information … all of the weapons of the office jungle come in to play, while we watch, breathless, on the side, as if at a bull-baiting pit with the dogs occasionally fighting each other and their handler egging all of them on, as if for maximum viewer enjoyment.

The cumulative effect of all of this verbal violence is overwhelming; it feels too real, too immediate. My brain was sending “thank God that wasn’t me” messages as the inevitable end played out, with pinstripe and patent leather clad predators slinking away while a third animal bled its life into the waterhole. All it needed was a vulture swooping in to take a first bite. It was an absolutely fantastic, hair-raising night at the theater.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, January 27, 2015. It continues through February 14th.)

Mini-review – King Charles – Almeida Theater

May 23, 2014

The Almeida Theater’s debut production of Mike Bartlett’s King Charles closes soon, but, as an example of the golden age of theater writing in London, I simply must review it despite missing the best window for doing so.

Taking a philosophical question and putting it in as the core element of a work of fiction is a fantastic way of approaching “what ifs.” In some ways, it’s the motivation behind the writing of Animal Farm and of Fahrenheit 451 … for others, it’s the essence of a dry bit of writing like The Communist Manifesto or God knows how many dreary PhD publications. Forget essays, let’s look at changes to the underpinnings of concepts of personhood and politics through the eyes of theater!

This seems to be the driving force behind Mike Bartlett’s new play, King Charles. The idea is that the new king (former prince), Charles, has decided to change the balance of powers between the executive and the legislative branch; rather than rubberstamping every bill that comes his way, he’s going to use … the veto! Now, as an expert on American constitutional government, I didn’t find this shocking at all; but apparently saying no hasn’t been on the agenda for all of Elizabeth’s long reign. The so-called executive is supposed to smile and nod and say yes to anything that comes out of parliament; a situation that rather effectively destroys any sense of “balance” between these two bodies.

My mind raced madly at the ideas this raised (and Charles’ mini-furore over likening Putin to Hitler – a similarity I certainly noticed, what with the takeover of a free nation’s territory – showed that the expectation is that royalty are truly only expected to be FIGURE heads of state). What are the traditional rights of the executive role? Is this country wrongly goverened because there is no effective balance to the legistlature? What’s the point of a prime minister, anyway?

I had feared that this play would be some kind of celebrity, jokey-jokey “oh look it’s Camilla oh look it’s, um, whatever his name is, the younger brother” but instead Bartlett took the opportunity to create beautiful language (it sounded very iambic, someone send me a script!) and to flesh out gorgeous, rich characters very much “inspired by” a la Shakespeare. (I’m pretty sure no Scottish lord of any sort has ever referred to his family as “all my pretty chickens,” but it still makes for better listening.) And all of this was underpinned by Bartlett’s wonderful understanding of human motivations … especially the selfish ones.

Backed by the beautiful uncertaining of our soon to be glorious future, this play had a brilliant edge to it, like a knife sitting in silk, ready to tear. I was eager to rush back in after the intermission and see how it had all turned out. Oh brave Almeida, that has such fine plays in ‘t!

(This review is for a performance that took place on May 9th, 2014. It ends May 31st.)

Mini-review – Medea (the Mike Bartlett adaptation) – Headlong at Richmond Theater (then Northcott Theatre, Exeter)

November 22, 2012

I went last night to see a modernized adaptation of Medea at the Richmond Theater, and BOY IT ROCKED. I sat up in the cheapie cheapie seats for ten quid in the back of the 2nd circle but after about 10 minutes I didn’t care about the angle or the bits of the stage that were cut off, because the whole thing was TOTALLY AMAZING. Medea and Jason were English, she was living in some kind of maisonette in the suburbs, the chorus was her nosy neighbors, Jason was getting married to the landlord of their building (who was evicting Medea). She was a career woman who was just too clever to be well-liked. There was a song in which the entirely of David Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” played while she basically had a breakdown in the kitchen and WOW WOW WOW.

It deserves a longer review, but you deserve to see it, so I’m posting this HEADS UP AWESOMENESS and maybe I’ll get in a longer review later. It’s only 90 minutes so you have NO EXCUSE.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, November 21, 2012. It runs through Saturday, November 24th. Then it goes to the Northcott Theatre in Exeter and I HIGHLY ADVISE YOU SEE IT.)

Review – Chariots of Fire – Hampstead Theater

May 24, 2012

I have a real thing for new writing. This, however, doesn’t extend to new plays that are adaptations of movies. But when pcchan1981 invited me to catch Chariots of Fire at the Hampstead Theater, I thought, why not? The script is by Mike Bartlett, and I think he’s pretty decent. But I became a bit worried when a West End transfer was announced before the show’s opening. What made them so sure of the show’s success? Did this have … something to do with the Olympics? Hmmm.

Three months later it was finally time for the show. I had seen the movie but, as I saw it back when it was new most of the plot details had long ago slid from my brain. I remembered that one of the characters was Jewish, and that the plot had something to do with running in the Olympics. But everything else was pretty much gone. To me, it meant I was approaching the show in a close to ideal fashion, as, other than being pretty sure of the ending, I had few preconceptions about what was going to happen and no expectation of a performance “like the guy in the film.” (And thank God I hadn’t read the Hampstead website, which describes the show as “the theatrical event of our Olympic year.” Those claims inevitably lead to disappointment. Can people just say, “We think our show is good, we do hope you’ll like it?”)

The inside of the theater had been set up like a race track, with a circular running level separating the stalls seats from the balcony and upper balcony area, and a rotating area in the middle that could either just have the edge rotating or the whole thing going at once. This was obviously very useful for a play in which a lot of action centers on racing, and they made good use of it, not just running on the stationary track but cutting across the middle to do figure eights; they also raced on the small rotating edge of the middle section. Unsurprising, with all of this running, the cast of this show was looking awfully fit; I suspect some folks might find it worth seeing for that alone.

This was not enough for me. I was looking for drama and personal evolution: I got one note characters and lots of running. Real drama came during the British Olympics Committee grilling scene, when they try to force someone to run against their religious beliefs; but nothing else really engaged me at that level. I found joy when one of the runners practiced hurdles with glasses of fine champagne balanced on the posts; I was gleeful at the frequent use of Gilbert and Sullivan (did Cambridge students really all do Am Dram?). Yet I cared for nobody on stage, because they didn’t seem real, not a one of them; they were actors portraying actors portraying some writer’s version of real people as made interesting enough to film. Just what was I supposed to care about?

As I was struggling to keep engaged during the second act, the British team made it to France for the Olympics, and suddenly it was five rings projected on the floor and the Olympic flag on the wall. In my mind, the IOC licensing committee (LOCOG?) suddenly swooped in and confiscated all of the props and declared the play closed as they hadn’t received official permission to use their copyrighted stuff (at exorbitant fees). But then I realized … the whole reason for this play’s existence is to ride on those Olympic coattails, and take advantage of the Olympics as a marketing phenomenon. It was never a play aimed at me, a hardcore theater fan who sees an average of three shows a week. Taking advantage of Olympics fever is why this play was written, why it is transferring, and why it uses the horribly, gratingly inappropriate Vangelis music despite the fact it says THIS WAS WRITTEN IN 1981 and ruins the feeling of the early 20s they otherwise have tried so hard to create on stage. This play was written to make a buck, not to be a good show.

If you have to, you can probably make it through this play. But I promise you, after this summer is over this thing will never see the light of a serious stage again.

(This review is for a performance that took place on May 21st, 2012. It continues at the Hampstead until June 16th, and if you’re going to see it do it before it transfers. There are plenty of seats available still and it will cost you much more like what it is worth rather than what they are going to want you to play.)

Review – Thirteen (by Mike Bartlett) – National Theatre

October 27, 2011

A new play by Mike Bartlett! A new play by Mike Bartlett! I bought my ticket hoping for Cock (brilliant, intense), but was I actually going to get Earthquakes in London (shiny then tedious)? I was willing to wait four months (while the National sat earning interest on my tickets) to get the answer: what is the ultimate truth about 13?

And the answer is … well, it’s a bit more of the shiny side of Earthquakes. With 13, we have a huge dose of Stuff What Is Happening Now – it’s so clear that much of its formative period was during the summer when the riots were going on. We’ve got old ladies angry enough at banks to smash their windows, a government that is looking to Twitter to understand what “the people” are thinking, and a people who get their news off of their I-phones. And that guy with the shaggy hair and the beard at the airport (Trystan Gravelle), wasn’t he another wannabe jihadi fresh back from training? Extra historical pins are provided by the names of the “President’s aide,” Dennis (his last name was given but in my head he was already Kucinich – Nick Sidi) and the atheist scholar who is the PM’s best friend, Stephen (I heard “Frye” but saw Richard Dawkins – Danny Webb). Underneath it all is a shared nightmare that something “very bad” is going to happen – the world of terrorism keeping would be dreamers up at night. Sure, some historical specificity has been changed to make it fiction (there’s not a coalition government but just a ruling Tory PM – Ruth (Geraldine James)) – and the big political question of the day is about whether or not to invade Iran – but in some ways this play just seems like an alternate version of the reality we’re in. In fact, I posit the play is actually set right now, but the names (of people and places) have (or have not) been changed to protect the innocent (our innocence – or ignorance).

The story. Do you care about the story? The play seems to be mostly about expressing the situation we’re living in, poking a little bit at some of the underlying weirdnesses (people don’t understand what’s going on, it feels like we’re at a historical nexus but no one can really imagine what it might be like in five year’s time), dealing with some moral questions (do people want to believe, when do you have responsibility for another’s actions, how do you do a calculus of death, is liberty only for people that designate theirselves as worthy of it), and sprinkling in a little mystery (what did quasi-prophet John have to do with the Prime Minister’s son’s death? where has John been for five years?). There’s some human interaction – the part where I think Bartlett shows his strongest talent – but amidst all of this ENERGY and GREAT ACTING and POSSIBLY DODGY ACTIVITIES – which dazzled me at the time – there seems to be something missing.

The play is so thoroughly wrapped up in the now that it doesn’t get nearly close enough to the human as it ought to if it wants to be anything more than that play we saw (in 2011) that talked about all of the stuff we were talking about – in 2011. Wondering if a single murderer can be just as wrong as a governmental official “protecting and serving” as they kill is a good question to ask, but philosophy doesn’t tend to build the strongest scripts. Neither do I-pads, video streaming, or giant black cubes shooting around stage trying not very subtlely to imitate the Q’aaba. I walked out feeling very impressed with all of the now-ness but finding very little memorable had happened. This play is much better than Earthquakes, and worth seeing, but for all of its showiness I wish like hell Mike Bartlett would do another play with five or less people in it, and give me something that I’ll talk about, not just on my way back to the tube, but for years later. 13 is just not it. Better luck next time.

(This review is for a preview performance that took place on October 24th, 2011. It is running at least through January 8th, 2012.)

Review – Love Love Love – Palace Theatre Watford

March 17, 2011

I may be terrible at remembering the names of directors and actors (especially those people on television) but I am very loyal to writers who produce good works for the stage. I have a list of “see everything by” that includes Ibsen, Pinter … and Mike Bartlett. His play Cock blew me away and was without reserve the best play I saw in 2009, convincing me he had a powerful insight into the strange convolutions of the human mind and a craftsman’s love for creating dialogue that sounded like real people talking. Earthquakes didn’t bring me entirely down to ground (I can’t expect a living playwright to have already had the dross culled from the folio), but the deliciously evil, dystopic Contractions had me again.

Thus, wonders of wonders, I, the nine to five girl who will have her eight hours of sleep, agreed, no, chose on her own, to trek across London into the veritable hinterlands, to Watford, on a school night, so that I could see a new(ish) play by this genius among men. Watford. It was only there for four performances, I was gone for two, so Wednesday night it was, and Tim Watson gamely agreed to accompany me (he even knew where the theater is). And looking at the schedule of the other performances for this tour, by “Paines Plough and the Drum Theatre Plymouth,” Watford was in fact the only even slightly possible city besides Oxford I could see it at. It turns out this company has a “thing” for not doing shows in London, which I found rather ironic (and snobby) considering that much of the play talks about how you just have to live in London if you’re going to have any kind of exciting life (and later on about how if you life in London you basically can’t afford to have a life, period). But, you know, these people don’t care if I get my Mike Bartlett fix or not, so I found my way to the Palace Theater for a 7:45 show (and opening night of the run).

Love, Love, Love runs us through forty years of history and… gosh, I don’t really want to give anything away because so much of my enjoyment was about never having a clue about what the curtain was going to rise on as each of the three acts begin, so I’m going to have to be really careful here. It starts in Swinging London with two brothers from a dull town somewhere else both making a go of life in the big city. Only, really, only one of them is trying; the other is his layabout brother Kenneth (Ben Addis) who does a fantastic job of establishing character as he falls off of a couch attempting to get a glass of whiskey with the minimum amount of exertion. Act two is set in an upper-middle class family’s home in 1990, and introduces two fascinating characters; a fourteen year old boy Jamie, who’s crazy about Stone Roses (James Barrett), and his sixteen year old sister Rose (Rosie Wyatt). They have an extraodinarily naturalistic teenaged brother and sister dynamic going on, and I loved seeing how they dealt with the frustrations to their lives caused by their parents and each other.

Various of the characters travel through time as the scenes change, but I found myself distracted by the lack of attempt at making them up to age: characters from the first scene basically remain eternally young. I think this was a deliberate choice (should have picked up the script but a friend confirmed this was how it was the first time around), as it could be seen as nicely symbolizing the “love” generation’s failure to grow up; but I was confused when parents and children appeared to be more or less the same age. This was especially a problem for Lisa Jackson; her mannerisms simply didn’t evolve in a way that was suggestive of age at all; instead, I found her acting more and more like (a young) Katherine Hepburn as she was supposed to be actually older. Grr.

The play manages to make a political point, that the children of the seventies are basically selfishly sucking up all of the money that could be making the lives of their children better, but I found it easy enough to absorb as partially just the point of one character (likely representing the playwright’s point of view) and not as “THIS IS HOW THINGS ARE WE MUST RISE UP IN REVOLT.” As a message, I didn’t find it grating like Earthquakes was because it was framed very much in the context of telling a story and building up character. Instead of leaving me feeling preached at and used, this jibe served as a sort of glossy icing on top of the cake of the story. I found it something that I could ignore in pursuit of coming up with my own answers to the question, “Why does the modern generation seem to have so much less than their parents did?” It just seems to simple to pawn it off as the fault of selfish hedonists of the late sixties but it was fun to have some real ideas to chew on after the show was over.

However, this is not what makes a good night at the theataer. I was very engaged by the story of one family and how they wound up, through their idiocy and bad decisions and horrible parenting, just utterly and completely screwing their kids. It was very believable, if depressing, and the fights that Rosie has with her parents seemed completely realistic, as did the various not very healthy coping strategies she developed to handle their shortcomings. In fact, message or not, I found myself just really caught up in the drama between the four people who ended up together in the final scene. Really, would any of them ever get their lives together, and would any of them ever have the ability to have any kind of meaningful love and connection in their lives? It seemed so sad that only the people who loved, basically, themselves would wind up happy; but to me, this seems quite a truthful ending for Bartlett to choose. The “good guys” don’t necessarily wind up happy, just like in real life, and that, for me, made for a damned good night at the theater.

(Running time was 2:25 including interval. This review was for a performance that took place at the Watford Palace on March 16th, 2011. Love Love Love continues on tour through June 11th at the Curve, Leicester; the Live Theatre in Newcastle; the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough; West Yorkshire Playhouse; the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich; the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton; the Liverpool Playhouse; the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow; the Hull Truck Theatre; the Royal & Derngate, Northampton; and finally, the Oxford Playhouse. For an alternate review, please see What’s On Stage.)

Review – Contractions – TheatreDelicatessen at an office near Bond Street

October 28, 2010

Mike Bartlett is still riding high in my book after last year’s Cock, so I didn’t hesitate when I saw many and various tweets about the production of Contractions Chris Adams was directing. Bartlett is a master of modern speech and has a deeply penetrating understanding of the quirky underpinnings of human interaction in this day and age. I was more excited to see that it was going to be done in a Real Life Office (or an office building, anyway), but the schedule was a bitch: one week only, and I was out of town for two of those days …. and had shows booked for the rest. Shit! What to do?

An answer suggested itself in the form of something that turned out to be frighteningly in keeping with the play itself: take a very long lunch and go to the matinee. After all, it was in central London: it should be doable. And it was at 1PM. And, er, a friend was going. So I decided to be daring and booked myself for a lunchtime viewing. Ooh! It felt so naughty!

I arrived at the location and found a fortunately clearly signed building (not being clever like Accomplice and pretending to actually be a business but with nice “Theatre Delicatessen” signs plastered outside). Upon arrival, I was given an envelope telling me that my presence was required at a personnel meeting regarding an urgent matter … clearly NOT on my company’s stationery. I was then escorted into a open room with about forty other people in it that had every bit of the feeling of a typical staffing cattle call. What with the nerves caused by skiving, I got quite the nice frisson by the atmosphere (and an even better one from seeing my friend Ian saving me a chair – always better to face the music together!).

We were then escorted upstairs and into a long room with a desk and a single chair in the middle, and four rows of low-quality office type chairs (mine was blue plastic) on both sides, elevated a bit to enable views of the stages (such as it was). The blueish lights shone from over head; the sunlight and noises of London business life came in from the windows. We were at work, as if behind observation glass, and Emma (Holly Beth Morgan), a new employee, walked in the door to sit down in front of her manager (Abigail Rokison) to discuss how her job was going.

Things seemed to be going fine; Emma seemed a cheerful, high-performing employee, who cheerfully bantered about the various details of her first short weeks on the job. But somehow her manager didn’t seem satisfied; she asked leading questions about her behaviour, cut her short with glares and tight smiles, and generally gave the impression that something was not quite right, without saying exactly what.

Over the course of the next forty or so minutes, Emma returned again and again for meetings with her (never named) manager, discussing and justifying her behavior, being torn to bits for nothing, making more and more outrageous attempts to please her manager and the company behemoth that stood behind her, in a world that slowly came to seem like the most perfect example of an uncaring office dystopia I’ve ever seen on stage – certainly right up there with Brazil and Gattaca, only with a much more familiar whiff of this could be just a few years away. The pressure starts to get to Emma after a while, and, well, it just went places I never imagined.

All of this was, of course, done in the thoroughly realistic and psychologically note-perfect words of Bartlett, who handled the interplay between the two women like a sushi chef battling fatty tuna. Morgan really managed to keep Emma’s evolution on track; Rokison, with the more difficult and less sympathetic role, kept the pressure on and handled every word and action with the unflinching falseness of someone being paid to pretend they care about a worker as a human being when truly they are “headcount.”

It was an intense, fast trip and, when the lights came down after Emma’s last exit, I have to say I was a bit relieved. It had all hit very close to home; after all, it’s not the Scissor-Man that keeps most of us up with stomach cramps and high blood pressure; it’s those close to us: parents, partners … our bosses – the people that can really make our daily lives a horror. And this was a tale of horror right up there with anything Poe or Lovecraft would crank out, a horror story of modern working life. I was happy to burst back into the sunshine, but unable to escape my nagging sense of guilt to rush back to my desk and return to being a perfect little worker bee. After all, you never know who is watching.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, October 27th. Contractions continues through October 30th, 2010 and may already be sold out. Good luck getting a ticket! For an alternate take, please see Ian Foster’s review.)

Review – Earthquakes in London – National Theatre

August 3, 2010

Earthquakes in London is a strange beastie of a play. Coming off of the high of author Mike Bartlett’s superb (if short) Cock (at the Jerwood last fall), I expected – well, almost nothing, really, other than his perfectly created dialogue. I certainly didn’t expect a play with a running time of three hours and ten minutes, and I never thought that anyone could have expected the audience (including me!) to STAND through the show. Admittedly this is because I am a bit thick and when I bought my tickets I sincerely did not understand what I was being offered (as there was only one type of ticket available when I bought, I didn’t realize that sitting down was even possible, or that this was to be standing and not moving as per a normal promenade show). Unless you are under thirty with particularly strong knees, you must avoid the £10 “pit standing” seats at all costs – with my sprained ankle, it was a one way ticket to hell.

Well, except, as it turns out I wound up getting a spinning bar stool in front of the swirling catwalk of a stage that wends through the middle of the Cottlesloe, and from this vantage point, with actors stripping, grinding, fainting, getting stoned, and dying in front of my very face (seat 12 FYI), I had massive, exciting theatrical overload, far better than most promenade shows. My God. It was like … really being there, or, really almost being there, but just far more immersive than almost any play I’ve ever been too – there were actors in front of me, behind me, above me, to my side, just everywhere, and the action was changing from one place to another so quickly I was whirling around like a kitten tracking a laser pointer, never sure if I was supposed to be looking at the robo-Stepford mummies rocking their prams, the strange singing men coming up through holes in the catwalk, the latex-clad nursie, one of the two cut-in stages on the opposing walls, the video projections on the sides (for once helpful, decorative in a useful but not oppressive or “we were too cheap to do this right” way), or everything at once. To make it even more clear, scenes took place in which characters were supposed to be in different places (a house and Soho) but walked through each others’ physical place on the set, leaving my brain to resolve just what was going on. I loved this; it was exhilarating. I sat there in the middle of act one going, “My God, this is a major theatrical event, and I am here for it!” Relations between sisters, very modern politics, and the end of the world hanging over it all? Where was it all going?

But … it became clear as the act wound down (some two hours in) … where we were going was to very familiar territory, in this case Playwright Gets Preachy Land. It was NOT some bizarre “deus ex machine” catastrophe designed to bring us all together, no, it was … wait for it … a three hour polemic on how We All Need To Change Our Behavior To Save The World From Climate Change. Seriously. It got into it hard core at about 90 minutes in and it never stopped shaking that rag doll. Did the question of a father and daughter both selling themselves out for financial gain really matter? Did a father’s abandonment of his family matter? Did dealing with pre-natal depression matter? Did any of the struggles that any of the characters had ever go anywhere interesting? Yeah, sure, youngest sister Jasmine (Jessica Raine, totally hot and very “on” for the whole show) took her clothes off, and Lia Williams was utterly brilliant as environmental minister who couldn’t balance her work and home life (and bullied her husband), but Anna Madeley spent the whole damned play crawling around dealing very unconvincingly with the “struggle” of bringing a being into a world that was going to collapse during the baby’s lifetime, and I didn’t care. All of those solid characters (well, not Anna Madeley’s), all wasted. It was the one time I’d seen the multiple story line thing really seeming to work, but Bartlett splorted it all away to get into a polemic (leading into a ridiculous fantasy world) that left my heart shrivelled.

My God, when will playwrights learn that a good play ultimately comes down to the relationships between the characters in it. You can use the platform to sell a point but if what’s going on between the people isn’t interesting, the pontificating is dull. Shaw managed to walk this tightrope generally quite well; Bartlett has unfortunately fallen prey to the David Hare syndrome: too in love with beating the audience about the head with his Really Important Point to make a Really Good Play. Me, if I want to read about climate change, all I have to do is pick up the paper any day of the week; it’s covered extensively in the news. I don’t go to the theater to hear this all over again: I go to learn about people and what makes them tick. At the end of the night, this focus on politics and news of the day has already hopelessly dated Earthquakes in London, making it stale even as the package is being opened. The fantastic staging is something I will remember for a long time; but the play itself, I’m afraid, will not, and for the talented cast and the teasing hints of an amazing storyline that was squashed flat in order to get a point across it’s all a damnable shame.

(This review is for a preview performance that took place on Monday, August 2nd, 2010. It continues through September 22nd but appears to be totally sold out. For another point of view and much more detail on the plot, please see the West End Whinger’s review; a comprehensive listing of reviews from the majors can be found on UpTheWestEnd.com. Note that if you are very concerned about climate change you will probably find this a wonderful show LATER: Or so I thought when I wrote this: Robert Butler apparently did not!)