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Europe After the Rain review at Mercury Theatre, Colchester – ‘a highly promising debut’

Anna Koval and Natasha Kafka in Europe After the Rain at Mercury Theatre, Colchester. Photo: Robert Day

Winner of the 2017 Mercury Playwriting Prize, Europe After the Rain is the first full length play from author Oliver Bennett, a deliriously dark comedy about displacement both physical and emotional.

Set in an England poised to elect a fascist government, the tone is less dystopian political drama and more satirical portrait of a world in an alarming state of flux.

Here, four characters huddle in a suburban garden remodelled into a desolate stretch of sand, where educated but unemployed Will – a raw and explosive James Alexandrou – plays host to a raddled childhood friend, and two Ukrainian refugees. Through a series of panicky conversations, they consider ways to adapt to their new reality, everything from doing IT work for the new regime, to living with foxes.

Director Cara Nolan plays up the controlled chaos, scattering props about the space, her cast babbling over one another during their believable outbursts. Simon Haines particularly throws himself into his role as Max, thrashing, pratfalling, and dancing around inside the canvas cocoon of a collapsed tent. Natasha Kafka, too, is excellent as younger refugee Marta, smart and tech-savvy, speaking idiomatic English, but nevertheless overwhelmed by the furious pace of change around her.

The set, by Amelia Jane Hankin, is simple but striking, a plastic patio chair embedded in a shallow sandpit sprinkled with roses. Kiaran-Lee Kesby’s lighting meanwhile is understated and effective, a gradual transition from sunset orange to spring twilight to the bleak dawn of the morning after the fateful election.

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Oliver Bennett’s feverish, fiercely relevant satire is a highly promising debut