EARTHQUAKES IN LONDON: Mike Bartlett
Headlong Theatre and NT: Touring till 12 November
Runs: 3h, one interval
Review: Rod Dungate, Malvern Theatre, 04 10 2011
Tour info: www.headlongtheatre.co.uk
Shaky foundations lead to giant chasms
EARTHQUAKES IN LONDON sounds like such a good play (the earthquakes are both metaphorical and real); but after a promising start it never quite lives up to its potential. Indeed, as the second half staggers along into an ending of quite staggering sentimentality, the minutes do slow down.
The main thrust is full of promise – three sisters, one is a Minister in the ConDem government (she’s LibDem), another is a near drop-out troublesome student, the third is hugely troubled – and in the late stages of pregnancy. With the Minister being in charge of environment (and doing an airport report) and a father who’s an earth scientist but who sold out in his youth but has found his way in his old age, you can see where the play might be going.
The first half doesn’t exactly draw you in to the various characters’ lives, but it is hugely stimulating in the various economic and political arguments being debated. In the second half, though, the play wallows around in stereotypical personal relationships, leading to the earthquake itself – unimaginatively staged. But worse is to come . . . from the dysfunction emerges the child (see pregnancy above) who becomes a prophet and saves the world. (Honestly!) Now either the writer has lost his marbles at this point or it’s meant ironically, and since there’s no indication of irony I can only assume . . .
There are flash-backs and flash-forwards and songs. Watching the over-produced songs I was struck at how beautifully Dennis Potter had used the song element in his dramas. These left me puzzled and unmoved.
Some lively performances among all this muddle. In particular from the cold-hearted politician, Sarah (Tracy-Ann Oberman) and her student sister, Jasmine (Lucy Phelps). Paul Shelley (father, Robert) is also most effective, encapsulating his arguments in a relaxed manner with some welcome humour.
Simon / Roy / WWII Officer / Polar Bear / Passerby 1: Ben Addis
Understudy / Dance Captain: Sam Archer
Peter / Mother: Helen Cripps
Tom: Kurt Egyiawan
Colin: Sean Gleeson
Marina / Mother / Understudy: Suibhan Harrison
Steve: John Hollingworth
Mrs Andrews: Maggie McCourt
Sarah: TracyAnn Oberman
Jasmine: Lucy Phelps
Supermarket Worker / Casey / Old Woman: Nicola Sangster
Carter / Daniel / Police Officer / Dr Harris: Gyuri Sarossy
Robert: Paul Shelley
Grace / Receptionist / Mother / Jogger: Natalie Thomas
Young Robert / Business Man / Scammmer / Bar Man : Joseph Thompson
Freya: Leah Whitaker
Directed by: Rupert Goold
Tour directed by: Caroline Steinbeis
Set Designer: Miriam Buether
Associate Set Designer: Lucy Sierra
Costume Designer: Katrina Lindsay
Lighting Designer: Tim Mitchell
Music by: Alex Baranowski
Projection Design: Jon Driscoll and Gemma Carrington
Associate Projection Designer: Paul Kenah
Sound Designer: Gregory Clarke
Choreographer: Scott Ambler
Associate Choreographer: Steve Kirkham
Assistant Director: Tom Attenborough