FIRST LOVE IS THE REVOLUTION
by Rita Kalnejais.
Soho Theatre 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE To 21 November 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.15pm Mat 31 Oct, 12, 14, 19, 21 Nov 3pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS : 020 7478 0100.
Review: Carole Woddis 28 Oct.
Strange, but as a stranger, give it a great big, warm welcome.
Ever daring, ever innovative, Soho’s artistic director, Steve Marmion has found a delectably original, daffy and hilarious tale of crossing boundaries by a new Australian writer, Rita Kalnejais. In fact Kalnejais’s credentials are considerable; she’s worked with Sydney Theatre Company and the wonderful Belvoir company, whose work over here has thrilled and impressed by turns.
Kalnejais deals in the potentially explosive subject of love between humans and animals. Some may remember it as the catalyst in Edward Albee’s The Goat, in which an obsessive love for a goat becomes the basis for a discussion about the morality of love that knows no boundaries.
Kalnejais has fewer qualms, or such as they are emerge only towards the end in an explosive outcome triggered by the love-match between James Tarpey’s gauche 14 year-old teenager, Basti, and Emily Burnett’s burgeoning young fox cub, Rdeca.
Fears are raised, but they come more from Hayley Carmichael’s mother fox, Cochineal, when she counsels her young cubs not to go anywhere near humans: “They are more cruel than you can imagine.”
Anthropomorphising animals, we know, can be fraught with danger, twee sentimentality springing out of every pore. But little of that appears in Marmion’s grungey/punky, spry production or in Kalnejais’s script, which captures youthful lust, curiosity, rebellion, innocence and tragedy at one swoop. She has some cogent parallels to make, too, between humans and animals that will make anyone seeing this think twice before putting mouse or fox to the slaughter.
Here, fox cubs speak human talk; Basti understands the foxes. Dogs talk – or growl – at chickens, foxes smash-up a passing mole. It’s by no means plain sailing and ends in a blood-bath. Is Kalnejais signalling that crossing boundaries, in whatever form, can only lead to disaster?
The jury’s out, but like a fairy-story for adults, you can’t help but buy into her world, spurred-on by some gorgeous performances, typically from Carmichael, but also, making their professional debuts, Emily Burnett’s heel-sprung Rdeca, bursting with life and love, Tarpey’s shy teenager and Samson Kayo’s burly, blood lusting Alsatian.
Fine support too from Simon Kunz and Lucy McCormick.
Rdeca: Emily Burnett.
Simon/GregorMole/a chicken: Simon Kunz.
Gemma/Gustina/Smulan: Lucy McCormick.
Cochineal/a chicken: Hayley Carmichael.
Thoreau/Rovis: Samson Kayo.
Basti: James Tarpey.
Director: Steve Marmion.
Designer/Costume: Anthony Lamble.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Gareth Fry.
Movement: Aline David.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
First performance at Soho Theatre 23 October 2015.