Review: An Intervention, Old Fire Station
5.0Overall Score

Clare Lizzimore directs Mike Bartlett’s An Intervention at Oxford’s Old Fire Station. In this recording of a rehearsed reading, Charly Clive and Ellen Robertson play best friends who are growing increasingly distant due to Robertson’s character’s toxic relationship and their differing opinions on Britain’s intervention in a war happening in the Middle-East, as it is vaguely referred to.

Bartlett’s writing has long been a favourite of mine, ever since performing Earthquakes in London when I was at college. The naturalistic style of Bartlett’s dialogue is the strength of all his pieces, and this remains true in An Intervention. Clive and Robertson constantly interrupt and speak over each other; a mark of honesty within the script which depicts their battle to really listen to one another. Bartlett explores the nuances of human relationships with a deftness unrivalled by others in the creative arts (in my humble opinion).

An Intervention is particularly poignant in its tackling of the thorny issue of toxic relationships and achieves this with candour and heart. Robertson’s character’s girlfriend, Hannah,  is a powerful influence over her, and is increasingly manipulative and controlling. Robertson is being distanced from her best friend (Clive) but believes that she is truly happy – despite all of her friends, and mother, thinking otherwise. The simplicity of this piece being filmed as a two hander, occasionally broken up by monologues, allows us, as the audience, to empathise with both characters through these moments of intimate connection through the screen. 

Both our performers are exceptionally talented and carry the piece with an engaging force, despite it being a rehearsed reading. Such an intimate and exposing script retains its power in this format, and the story is brought to life by Mike Clarke-Hall’s beautiful editing. I feel genuinely pained through significant swathes of this piece, at one point even pausing to have an emotional time-out – a brilliant perk of a pre-recorded piece. 

The title of the play initially seems like a reference to the interference of Britain in a war “in the Middle-East”. However, it becomes increasingly clear as our story progresses that the more important intervention is from Clive’s character into Robertson’s relationship. Ironically, Clive criticises Robertson for supporting military intervention, but herself oversteps several marks when she creates a group chat of all Robertson’s friends to discuss Hannah, the toxic partner. I am not comparing war and toxic relationships, however, this parallel does raise the interesting question of how far we, as outsiders, should intervene in others affairs. This motif is starkly represented through a picture of Tony Blair in front of burning buildings, in a not-so-subtle criticism of Britain’s military involvement in Iraq.

Querying involvement of others in relationships, friendships and political matters, An Intervention is a sensitive but meaty piece that pulls apart how we show our care for others. 

An Intervention is available to watch online until the 12th January. For more information and tickets see The Old Fire Station’s website.

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