Bridewell Theatre – until 14 July 2018
Reviewed by Antonia Hebbert
In a week when the government had all the togetherness of colliding tectonic plates, a tennis idol got toppled off his pedestal, and football decided not to come home after all, it seemed quite normal to be seeing a play about global catastrophe, family strife, birth, death and ethics, with a little time travel thrown in. This production is in traverse form – the audience faces each other along two sides – which felt irresistibly like some kind of theme park ride. When the lights went down and two actors came out and started talking, some irrational part of me was disappointed not to have been thrown backwards at the start of a dizzying journey.
But a dizzying journey is actually what you get with this Sedos company revival of Mike Bartlett’s 2010 Earthquakes in London. It’s fast-moving, jumping back and forth in time, swerving from comedy to solemn discussion of ethical issues, seamlessly switching and intertwining scenes, and sometimes breaking into dance (choreography by Tom Leonard). Characters transform, and the setting flips from the ‘real’ world of homes and workplaces to dream and prophecy. All the while the play follows the storyline of three contrasting sisters (Kimberly Barker, Carrie Pennifer and Izzi Richardson, all compelling) trying to work out how to live in the flawed contemporary world. Helena Bumpus encapsulates the switchback feel of the play as the comic-mystic boy-girl Peter-Emily.
Director Chris Davis worried that ‘a play about global warming could easily become preachy’, and at times it does: this is a play with big urgent messages and epic ambitions (ironically, you might think, being revived in the City of London, home of capitalism). But as a piece of theatre it is terrific, and the Sedos company (not professionals, but not at all amateurish) carry off this complicated production in grand style.