North Country review at the Wild Wood, Bradford – ‘post-apocalyptic pop-up theatre’

Natalie Davies in North Country at the Wild Wood, Bradford. Photo: Maria Spadafora
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A plague wipes out most of humanity, including the denizens of Bradford who fall like ninepins. Yet the end of Bradford is definitely not nigh in Tajinder Singh Hayer’s post-apocalyptic vision of a world turned upside down then slowly put to rights. Even if Bradfordians are turned into an endangered species, at least three teenagers, Harvinder, Nusrat and Alleyne, avoid the ensuing civil catastrophe to build a form of communal living.

It’s a doomsday survival scenario, borrowing elements from just about every known post-apocalyptic genre. But apart from local and regional references, this compelling play does eventually offer a surprisingly gentle British Asian perspective on shock horror, imagining a future where the past is still part of a strangely altered present and old cultural norms still hold value thirty years after disaster struck.

Even so, this brave new Bradford does seem to be run by men, although the future-shock fantasy is always convincing, partly because of the unique pop-up nature of Alex Chisholm’s mostly torch-lit production in a spooky zombie-like space – the vast basement floor of a disused former Marks and Spencer store, now given an afterlife as the Wild Wood arts project.

The writing is assured; the acting first-rate. The venue itself, whether by accident or design, is integral to the three interwoven narratives. But the short, sharp monologue format, with young people recalling how a strange new parallel Bradford emerged from the viral carnage, does tend to dilute the dramatic potential of a play that says a lot about human resilience in the face of change.

Pop-up theatre goes post-apocalyptic in Bradford