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Earthquakes in London review at National Theatre Cottesloe

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Director Rupert Goold, who was responsible for the triumphant production of Enron last year, does it again. This time he has teamed with Mike Bartlett, one of the most talented playwrights to emerge in the past five years, and the result is a memorable, thought provoking and highly enjoyable evening.

The theme is climate change, and Bartlett explores it by telling a family story about Robert, an aging scientist, and his three daughters – Sarah, the Environment Minister, Freya, a pregnant teacher, and Jasmine, a teenage student. Questions about personal morality and the wisdom of having children in a world that’s doomed to destruction, jostle with ideas about political compromise.

The theatre, designed by Miriam Buether, has been transformed into a bar, with a long, bright orange bar top dominating the space. At different times, the large cast of this three-hour epic play walk, dance, run, sing, embrace and even ride a bicycle along this snaking platform. As well as this bar-room action, there are also proscenium-style scenes at either end of the theatre. Part of the joy of the piece is never knowing what will happen, or where.

Goold’s cast deliver uniformly excellent performances, with Bill Paterson as the flinty Robert, Lia Williams as the troubled minister, Anna Madeley as the pregnant Freya and Jessica Raine as the punky Jasmine The spouses of the first two are played by Tom Goodman-Hill and Geoffrey Streatfeild. Michael Goold is a creepy corporate exec.

In a story that is part family drama, part political debate and part sci-fi mythology, Goold directs with his customary visual flair and there are a dozen memorable moments, from Jasmine’s burlesque strip to the projection of a screaming foetus, and from a quartet of black-clad mums pushing prams to a group of aqua-divers strumming guitars. Without doubt, this is the best new play of the year.

Production Information

National Theatre, Cottesloe, July 28-September 22

Mike Bartlett
Rupert Goold
National Theatre, Headlong
Cast includes
Anna Madeley, Bill Paterson, Jessica Raine and Lia Williams
Running time
3hrs 10mins

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