Review: Earthquakes in London

Image: Thomas Everchild

Brighton Little Theatre at Brighton Open Air Theatre

30th August – 2nd September 2017

Visionary scientist Robert is recruited in the 1960s by an airline paying him to find that aircraft emissions will do no harm to the environment – but his discoveries have a profound effect. We flit from the 1960s and 70s, via the 90s and present day and into the far future, catching glimpses of Robert, his three daughters and their lives, and a gigantic imminent disaster and its aftermath. It’s a huge, audacious production of a play packed with passion and a very clear message – and it’s often very funny.

A big cast full of accomplished actors, deftly directed by Steven Adams, is all held together by the middle daughter, pregnant Freya, in a sustained and true performance by Mandy-Jane Jackson, and the youngest Jasmine, a fiery Keziah Israel. Charlotte Atkinson’s awkward young boy Peter is a revelation, while Ann Atkins’ Mrs Andrews and Mike Skinner’s Robert deliver a dour, dry note of doom that’s highly entertaining.

Sometimes playwright Mike Bartlett’s message comes wrapped round a brick, with big chunks of climate change dialogue and an at-audience rant, which can sit oddly with his delicately-observed family dramas playing out in interweaving and overlapping little scenes.

Song and dance interludes including a burlesque piece, plus a few rave and drunken singalong scenes, neatly suggest civilisation’s final fling, a decadent world partying on to its doom. These scenes do sometimes feel over-extended, and here the pace can start to droop.

Take a look at the programme, to orient yourself with the scenes’ fleeting time changes, as the earlier daylight means that for much of the 90 minute first half the projections don’t show up on the cyclorama, which is a shame since as night falls they come into their own. One satisfyingly shocking image especially sparked real audience reaction.

See this play especially for its consistently terrific performances beautifully directed and staged, with a sterling technical backup.

BOAT-goer notes:

It’s long, so you’ll need all the cushions you can carry for BOAT’s seatless terraces, plus your phone torch if you want the loo.

Philippa Hammond
Sussex Playwrights