This Restless State created by Jesse Fox, written by Danielle Pearson
Ovalhouse (Short walk from Oval tube station) until 24th March
75 minutes, no interval
Veronica Stein, 19th March, 2018.
Never one at a time
This Restless State is a bit of a misnomer-what is brought to the table is instead the accounts of three restless states, and if we’re counting internal states as well as nations, we’re really talking six. In East Berlin of 1989, Galina is struggling to come to terms with her obligations, inextricably tied to East Berlin itself, and her itch to escape into the brand new post-wall world. In the hypothetical Pan-European state of 2057, Galina must reconcile her thoughts on the first Europe-wide referendum in response to a refugee crisis. In the near-present day, Jesse (presumably the same Jesse as the actor in front of us) struggles with the Brexit results and the more personal loss of his childhood home.
Binding all three more than anything else is the reflection of vast political change in our interpersonal, smaller-scale (but nevertheless life-changing) interactions. Though one gets the sense that a more grand conclusion is to be drawn from this triptych, the overarching theme seems to be the universality and inevitability of change- and while this may not make a definitive statement about Brexit (which this was created in response to), it saves it from being an unoriginal political piece.
Of the three narratives, it is natural that Jesse’s is the most personal, but the more off-the-cuff, seemingly improvised style makes it less specific and almost incongruous with the other meticulously crafted portrayals. While Jesse’s contemporary chronicle seems to exclusively be told in first person, Margot and Galina’s stories are described in mostly third person as Jesse narrates and acts within his words. The latter provides the most imaginative plot, but it doesn’t seem to fulfill its strong potential. Margot’s story is unequivocally the most well-developed- I would have gladly watched it play out for the entirety of the running time. There would indeed be thematic merit to having Jesse’s story run in tandem with solely Galina’s or Margot’s, but the inclusion of all three adds a scattered quality which confuses the the perceived intention of the piece.
Jesse Fox, however, presents the three with confidence and stylistic skill, shining in his vitriolic monologue about the failings of measuring up his reality with his expectations as well as in Margot’s timidity and inner turmoil. Ben Pacey’s design is evocative- the set is seemingly a play on the union-jack, made in wood panels and suggesting comfort and industrial architecture, fitting for the very real East Berlin of 1989 and the very imagined 2057 state. His lighting is specific and expressive, somehow manufacturing drama and, when necessary, an oppressive atmosphere.
This Restless State suffers from some structural issues that compromise its cohesiveness, but the strength of its disparate elements give it poignancy.
Performer and Creator: Jesse Fox
Director: Jemima James
Sound Designer: Ella Wahlstrom
Set and Lighting Designer: Ben Pacey