This Beautiful Future review at the Yard Theatre, London – ‘daringly unconventional’
Chartres, August 1944. A teenage Nazi soldier and a French girl secretly meet on the eve of the American army's triumphant arrival, spending one last night together before their worlds are turned upside down.
Rita Kalnejais' kaleidoscopic new play This Beautiful Future mines this compellingly weighted scenario for all it's worth. In Jay Miller's bold, expressionist staging, which flaunts a virtuosic command of duskily shifting lighting, eclectic soundscapes and ironically reworked pop songs, it is nothing short of mesmerising.
Elodie is a cutely narcissistic dreamer, laced with a flirty playfulness by Hannah Millward. Bradley Hall's Otto, bewitched by Hitler's nauseating rhetoric, puts one, strangely, in mind of Rodney Trotter – but not in a bad way.
While these young lovers embrace and bicker on Cecile Tremolieres' grassy, feather-strewn set, an older couple – Paul Haley and Alwyne Taylor – supply detached lines and fragments of song from isolated booths, with karaoke-style surtitles intermittently scrolling across the back wall.
What's it all about? Who knows? One of Kalnejais' play's most powerful tools is its refusal to be pinned down, its insistence that nothing is straightforward. Perhaps it's a meditation on missed opportunities. Perhaps it's a fascinating historical thought experiment. Or perhaps it suggests that, even in a volatile world among the unlikeliest of people, love and beauty can momentarily bloom. An extraordinary work, from an increasingly impressive theatre.