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This Restless State review at Ovalhouse, London – ‘an angsty monologue’

Jesse Fox in This Restless State at Ovalhouse, London. Photo: The Other Richard Jesse Fox in This Restless State at Ovalhouse, London. Photo: The Other Richard
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In the wake of the Brexit vote, our political climate can feel fraught, uncertain, and downright bleak. Danielle Pearson’s time-hopping, multi-character monologue grapples with This Restless State of affairs, but a solid premise is squandered by a disappointingly underdeveloped plot.

Solo performer Jesse Fox builds an easy rapport from the outset, introducing the play with warmth, humour and relatable autobiographical touches. He frets about moving back to his parents’ house, gets exasperated by an unelected fascist’s frequent Question Time appearances. From here, he slips between personas, introducing us to two women in two different eras, whose lives connect with his own.

The first, in 1989 East Berlin, sees the wall’s fall as an opportunity to escape a loveless marriage. The second inhabits a future Italy, and longs for a child even as a European superstate holds a referendum on instigating a single child policy.

Despite a few evocative details, neither of these periods is explored in much depth. In the past, Fox dances joyfully to David Hasselhoff’s Freedom. In the future he controls a kettle with a subdermal microchip.

Director Jemima James gives the show a sparse staging, investing each period with a distinctive tone, from Berlin’s optimistic hush to the claustrophobic babble of an overpopulated future.

Ben Pacey’s set – all segmented scaffold and chunky wooden beams – is visually appealing but does little to evoke the story’s shifting settings. A few decorative strips of blue suggest the sharp angles of a Union Jack, now scrambled, faded, and obscured.

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Intriguing ideas and a timely topic never quite come together in this angsty monologue