Dramatic Earthquakes in London set to stun Welwyn Garden City

Jon Brown as Robert and Josie Matthews as Grace in Earthquakes in London [Picture: John Davies]

Jon Brown as Robert and Josie Matthews as Grace in Earthquakes in London [Picture: John Davies]

John Davies

An apocalyptic play about climate change is set to rock a Welwyn Garden City theatre.

Richard Sheridan as Steve, Tammy Wall as Freya, Louise Parr as Jasmine, and Hazel Halliday as Sarah in the Barn Theatre's production of Earthquakes in London [Picture: John Davies]Richard Sheridan as Steve, Tammy Wall as Freya, Louise Parr as Jasmine, and Hazel Halliday as Sarah in the Barn Theatre's production of Earthquakes in London [Picture: John Davies]

After a run of highly-acclaimed period pieces, the Barn Theatre comes bang up to date this week with an exciting, contemporary production on the topical and pressing subject of climate change.

Earthquakes in London, which opens in Welwyn Garden City tonight (Friday), premiered at the National’s Cottesloe Theatre in 2010 and earned its author, Mike Bartlett, the plaudit of “one of the most exciting playwrights of our time”.

Taking place over a period of three days, Bartlett’s play gives an account of life, love and profound unease in present day London, looking back to 1968 and forward to 2525.

The latter, significantly, features in the title of a doom-laden 1969 pop song from one-hit wonders Zager and Evans. The music of Marina and the Diamonds, Nick Cave and Arcade Fire also feature.

Earthquakes in London plays at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden CityEarthquakes in London plays at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City

Director and set designer Rosemary Bianchi said: “I wanted to direct something contemporary that means something to people now and climate change is at the forefront of many people’s minds.

“It’s an epic that interacts directly with the audience.

“With 80 scenes, some simultaneous, it really challenges the stage and the actors. It’s great fun to do.”

Bianchi isn’t averse to a challenge, as those who saw the Barn’s production of Jerusalem will know.

Earthquakes in London centres on the lives and loves of three sisters, abandoned long ago by their doom-mongering father, a scientist who predicts environmental apocalypse.

The eldest sister is a cabinet minister who plans to halt all airport expansion, choosing environment over economy.

The middle sister is heavily pregnant and growing increasingly depressed about the uncertain future her child is being born into.

The youngest sister is a rebellious teenager and frequent nuisance to her career-minded eldest sister.

As the three women attempt in their different ways to come to terms with the fact that their estranged father’s pessimistic forecasts may be right, an opportunity presents itself for reconciliation.

Bartlett’s essential message is simple – we are on the brink of environmental catastrophe and young people are paying the price for decisions made by their elders.

But it’s surprising how much fun this dark topic provides – one moment you are voyeurs at a burlesque show, the next watching appalled as a family of three sisters tear themselves to shreds, only to find yourself laughing at the spot-on depiction of the nervy energy of London life.

With great music and dance routines, this show mixes humdrum, profane and surreal.

The show runs at the Barn from Friday, May 16 until Saturday, May 24, with evening performances at 8pm and a matinee at 2.30pm on the second Saturday.

Tickets cost £11 from the Barn box office on 01707 324300 or online at www.barntheatre.co.uk

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