Earthquakes in London is eclectic to say the least. You would never expect a play about climate change to include a burlesque striptease, a Marina and the Diamonds musical extravaganza, and gigantic revolving stage but that’s exactly what you get. It is ambitious and epic and you definitely get a lot of bang for your buck.
The play is set around three sisters, all different in personalities and circumstances, living their lives in London with the theme of climate change linking their stories together. The story begins with news that an earthquake will hit London. It travels from London to Scotland, back to the 1960s and forward to 2525.
This Headlong and National Theatre partnership sees Rupert Goold direct and Mike Bartlett write, a first time collaboration. What has to be applauded is the realisation of this complicated and vast script on to the stage. Each scene slips in and out so fluidly that you often forget how the actors got on stage in the first place. The dialogue, although hardly inspiring and not far from clichéd, flows smoothly and is engaging enough to allow you to stay interested. What is outstanding is the acting. Every character has been cast perfectly, and particular note has to go to Lucy Phelps who makes her professional stage debut as Jasmine.
Earthquakes in London is entertaining, humorous and dramatic, everything you would like to see in a well-crafted play. I left the first half feeling positive and excited by what was happening before me and eager to see how the story would evolve. It’s just a shame that the second half fell so flat. The inevitable earthquake itself could have been the dramatic and poignant ending the play needed to leave a lasting impact, but instead it plodded along and turned into a surreal fantasy.
It does make you wonder what Bartlett wanted to audience to leave with. Can a play that pushes climate change down the audience’s throat really justify a revolving stage and giant back projection? I like to think I care about the environment and was looking forward to feeling inspired and ready to change the world. Instead I left feeling like I left a very expensive marketing campaign teaching me things that I already knew.