"Magical realism and dystopian sci-fi"
by Matthew Partridge for remotegoat on 11/07/18

The issue of climate change has an unfortunate tendency to make even the most reasonable person turn into a finger-wagging scold. This is a pity because it is clearly a serious issue that demands action (even if there is no consensus about the what particular form that this action should take). Fortunately, Sedos’ production of Mike Bartlett’s Earthquakes in London, which runs at the Bridewell Theatre, shows that it is possible to tackle the subject in a way that is engaging, even thrilling.

With the majority of the action occurring in 2010, it focuses on three sisters who are estranged from their scientist father. Government minister Sarah (Carrie Pennifer) is preparing a report on airport expansion, to the disgust of university dropout Jasmine (Izzi Richardson). Meanwhile, middle sibling Freya (Kimberly Barker) is swigging whisky to distract herself from her impending motherhood, when a mysterious pupil (Helena Bumpus) from her school knocks on her door. Both are still dealing with the legacy of the decisions taken by their estranged father (Paul Francis), a climatologist who sold his professional soul in the 1970s.

The best way to describe Earthquakes is as a combination of magical realism and dystopian science fiction that gradually speeds up, reaching a gut-wrenching and moving conclusion. Unexpected plot twists and moments of savage irony, such as a charity fundraiser dressed as a polar bear delaying a character at a vital moment, keep the audience engaged until the very end. The bittersweet ending, which is simultaneously hopeful and chilling, will also stay with you long after you have left the theatre.

Kimberly Barker is the cornerstone of the play. Deliberately avoiding the temptation to give a clichéd portrayal of someone consumed with fear and mania, she instead plays Freya as an everywoman who is caught up in events that seem to spiral beyond her control. Izzi Richardson also deserves a lot of credit as the sassy Jasmine. However, the rest of the cast also perform well, including the ensemble (Sarah Berryman, Matt Hudson, Nadira Hussain, Olivier Namet, Lois Savill, Lloyd Smith and Graham White), who are required to perform some strong choreography, as well as play multiple characters.

Sedos have a reputation for putting on strong productions. However, this is definitely one of the best shows that they have done in a long time. The show is directed by Chris Davis.

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