Saturday, 7 August 2010

Earthquakes in London.

On Friday night Patsy and I went up to the National to see Mike Bartlett's highly acclaimed Earthquakes in London. It's directed by the ever inventive Rupert Goold whose boyish style always seems to stand somewhere between genius and precociousness. It's a jumble sale of a production and you have to sift through the tricks to find the bits worth buying.

The story focuses on the psychological plight, and gradual breakdown, of three sisters, estranged from their hard line environmental scientist father - whose research leads him to wish he'd not brought them into the world in the first place. One is a Lib Dem minister in a coalition government trying to stop airport expansion, the second a special needs teacher struggling to come to terms with her own pregnancy and the youngest is a hedonistic college student who spends half her time engaged in political protest and the other in burlesque dancing.

It's epic, break neck speed, stuff swinging from the sixties to a projected dystopian future - after floods have drowned half the capital - all played out on wipe down nightclub of a set, featuring a cat walk that snakes it's way across the auditorium. The action is as irresistible as climate change itself.

So what was wrong with it? Well at three and a quarter hours it's twice as long as it needs to be, slips into shiny kitsch stupidity when projecting the future and is compromised by trying to find a visual metaphor for every possible environmental argument. It's also a bit soft in the middle and it would have been exciting, particularly in the humanely liberal National Theatre, to have really explored the Malthusian catastrophe of population growth. The rarely spoken truth is that the later we leave taking major steps to halt global warming the more fascistic, inhumane and extreme the eventual action we take will be. At the interval this basic point had been stunningly and persuasively made - by the end it was lost in an distracting display of authorial and directorial fireworks.

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