Welwyn Garden City theatre rocked by Earthquakes

16:42 01 June 2014

Richard Sheridan, Belinda Gee and Jon Brown in Earthquakes in London at the Barn Theatre, Welwyn Garden City

Richard Sheridan, Belinda Gee and Jon Brown in Earthquakes in London at the Barn Theatre, Welwyn Garden City

John Davies

Earthquakes in London rocked the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Joseph Kerr reviews the production.

Hazel Halliday, Harry Harding and Chris White in Earthquakes in London at the Barn Theatre, Welwyn Garden CityHazel Halliday, Harry Harding and Chris White in Earthquakes in London at the Barn Theatre, Welwyn Garden City

Mike Bartlett’s recent National Theatre success Earthquakes in London is an ambitious, thought-provoking piece of theatre.

On an incredibly colourful and bizarre setting, enhanced by video backgrounds, the play rushes, scoops and soars between 1968 and 2026 exploring the onrushing calamity of global warming and its effect on the lives of the characters.

Robert (a strong performance by Jon Brown) is an idealistic climatologist who sells out to commercial temptation when his opposition might have made a difference.

He has three very different daughters. Sarah is a Coalition environment minister, a character beautifully judged in Hazel Halliday’s performance, struggling to hold together her marriage to an unemployed, dull banker (Cliff Francis).

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]

Freya (Tammy Wall) is paranoid and pregnant, fearing for the future of her child, making life impossible for her husband (Richard Sheridan).

Jasmine is a hedonist wild child, sleeping around and working as a stripper – Louise Parr is a convincing tearaway and an exciting dancer.

Her boyfriend is an opportunist rebel (Harry Harding).

All three women try to come to terms in their own way with their father’s pessimistic forecasts.

Fine support is offered by Andrew Read as a hapless politician, with Andrew Bowden very amusing as his assistant trying to cover his boss’s gaffes.

Chris White as a lobbying and morally flexible businessman, Belinda Gee as Robert’s ‘housekeeper’ and a chorus of young girls as waitresses and disco dancers.

The outstanding performance is given by Josie Matthews as ‘Peter’, a troubled teenager with some of the best dialogue in the play, given full value here.

She is also party to a moving climax, as Freya’s daughter ventures into the future uncertainty of our damaged planet.

The director, Rosemary Bianchi, carries the action out into the audience to increase our sense of involvement.

Occasional snatches of song, vivid lighting and a frequent rumble of approaching earthquake, concurrent scenes and a strong ensemble, all add to the multiple threads of the plot and the author’s message, strongly and persuasively enacted to demonstrate that we should be taking action now.

You may resist the idea of being preached at in the theatre, but after this exciting roller-coaster of a play you may consider whether we are just ‘sticking our heads in the sand’.

Or, you can just sit back and revel in the lives and characters as they deal with the ‘gathering storm’.

* The Barn’s next production, No Naughty Bits, opens on Friday, June 13.

There are performances at 8pm until Saturday, June 21, with an additional matinee at 2.30pm on the final Saturday. Tickets can be bought online at http://www.barntheatre.co.uk/, by phone on 01707 324300, or at the door.

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