Sussex Playwrights Reviews:
An Accidental Birth of an Anarchist
By Luke Ofield
Directed by Neil Sheppeck
Assistant Director Francesca Boccanera
A live theatre performance at The Space, streamed online
Alice: Aurea Williamson
Lia: Pip O’Neill
Captain: Michael Jayes
Radio Ben: Gabriel Thomson
Two amateur activists get employed on a North Sea oil rig with the sole intention of exercising their right to stage a sit-in protest.
Taken from interviews with XR activists and former oil rig engineers, Luke Ofield’s new play at The Space Arts Centre, London is headlining Rising Tides’ Good Cop, Bad Cop 26 festival running alongside the Cop26 talks.
A simple set, a thrust stage, scaffolding around the edges with some control panels set the scene.
The conversation flows – and it’s a super-current conversation, tapping into everything happening today around climate change and pollution, female voices protesting for the future as the People’s Movement to Protect the Planet.
It can feel a bit of an Extinction Rebellion manifesto lecture, yet there are laughs, a wry, dry sense of humour and tetchy wrangling – ‘is this a hostage situation or a therapy session?’ as the enforced company spark snarky little rows while their alliance is starting to form.
Tight direction ensures performances bounce along with keen bubbly enthusiasm and urgent intensity from Williamson’s pink cardi-clad mum saving the world for the children and O’Neill’s boiler-suited young idealist with the stats at her fingertips.
In contrast, Jayes is a deep and dignified presence, a pragmatic been there, seen it all – til now, with Thomson’s unseen radio voice dialling in chirpy live interjections adding a great sense that there’s a bigger world out there, in the Mrs Wolowitz / Carlton the Doorman tradition.
On a technical note – Maybe it’s the venue acoustics, the tech broadcast set up, the internet connection, and with some outside noise and the storm effects, but it was sometimes hard to hear and follow the dialogue and story, especially in heightened moments. I was watching the live stream online so the in-theatre experience would be different.
The emergency crisis threatening to overwhelm the rig where they have to work together to avert disaster, putting aside their differences with intergenerational alliance, anger and ‘why won’t you do something’ passion is very now.
And it’s another new experience for Sussex Playwrights, being able to enjoy live theatre streamed from London online.
Ideal for those who can’t yet go out or go to smaller venues, it opens up the habit of theatre-going to a potentially entirely new audience, and offers equality and inclusion to an existing audience that would love to be able to be there. It’s a great new way to be part of Theatre audiences, and an option I think that is and should be here to stay.
90 minutes with a short interval, the play continues 3-12 November at The Space, 269 Westferry Road, London E14 3Rs
Details & tickets https://space.org.uk/…/accidental-birth-of-an…/…