by Richard Bean.
Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Downstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 19 March 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30; Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 19 March, 2.30pm.
Captioned 23 Feb 7.30pm.
Post-show Talk 1 March.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7565 -5000.
Review: Carole Woddis 12 February.
One of the hotter properties among climate-change dramas.
It seems there’s no way to get to grips with climate change in the theatre in less than two hours. Hardly surprising. There’s a lot to get through. We’d all agree on that, if little else.
Richard Bean’s The Heretic however comes as a refreshing change. Gone the worthy attempts of Greenland in which facts overwhelm. Gone too Mike Bartlett’s multi-visioned, disaster-packed Earthquakes in London. Instead, like Steve Waters’ The Contingency Plan, Bean’s heretic is political and personal. And sceptical, to boot.
But where The Heretic scores is not in its graphs and figures – though Bean has these at his fingertips; the brain spins with the logistics, tossed-off by Bean as lightly as an omelette. His triumph, rather, is in his drama, his dialogue, and the dynamics he sets up. Good old-fashioned situation comedy/drama and characterisation, but in Bean’s hands spicy, fresh and twice as original, if hopelessly contrived. It doesn’t matter. At least, not to me.
Juliet Stevenson’s nervy, brusque Diane Cassell is a Palaeogeophysics and Geodynamics lecturer in a northern university, James Fleet’s Kevin Maloney her professorial senior. Diane has an anorexic, mouthy daughter, Phoebe. She also acquires a nerdy if brilliant student Ben and is visited by campus security guard Geoff and later, Miss Tickell from Human Resources.
Out of such limited elements Bean builds a bubbling, often hysterically funny, barbed but never brutal dissection of climate-change politics, the (mis-) interpretation of facts, generational gulfs plus a stout rebuttal of the rising sea levels argument.
“I’m a scientist. I don’t `believe’ in anything,” declares Diane trusting instead to empiricism and data. By the by, we also get a near death, a wedding and the most beautifully lyrical love song since Simon & Garfunkel put pen to paper.
A sweet, compact, life-affirming bounce of a play that deals in huge issues, director Jeremy Herrin keeps it sharp and introduces us to the brilliant Johnny Flynn as Ben – what a find – with great support from Lydia Wilson (Phoebe) and Adrian Hood (Geoff).
With Stevenson and Fleet a dream team, as you can see, I absolutely adored this play.
Dr Diane Cassell: Juliet Stevenson.
Phoebe: Lydia Wilson.
Ben Shotter: Johnny Flynn.
Geoff Tordoff: Adrian Hood.
Professor Kevin Maloney: James Fleet.
Catherine Tickett: Leah Whitaker.
Director: Jeremy Herrin.
Designer: Peter McKintosh.
Lighting: Paul Pyant.
Sound: Emma Laxton.
Fight director: Kevin McCurdy.
Assistant director: Sophie Austin.
The Heretic was originally commissioned by Sonia Friedman Productions and first performed at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs on 4 February 4 2011.