Broadway Studio Theatre, Catford.
Three warring sisters set the scene for a high-energy production about earth’s approaching apocalypse.
Not since King Lear has one dad made such an almighty mess of bringing up three daughters.
Scientist Robert Crannock’s lifetime of indifference to his children, and the dreadful effects of his casual cruelty are explored in this extraordinary play by Mike Bartlett, which premiered at the National Theatre in 2010.
‘‘Earthquakes In London’’ is here produced by the Broadway Studio Theatre on a smaller scale, but with all the drive and energy needed to propel an epic show that hurtles us from 1968 to the fear-free future of 2525 in just under three hours.
As a young man, Crannock predicts global warming – but takes dirty money to shut up about it. And now, shrugging his shoulders at the inevitability of man’s destruction, he also ignores the plight of his three deeply disturbed daughters who all have reason to loathe him.
Ursula Campbell plays Sarah, the eldest, with all the brisk efficiency you’d expect from a cabinet minister. But she’s also struggling with a desperate frustration that she’s expected to pick up the pieces for the rest of the family’s fractured lives, and Campbell delivers a wonderfully nuanced performance as the bossy big sister at risk of losing everything.
Middle sister Freya is pregnant and agonises whether there is any future either for her or her unborn child. Sarah Savage captures all the vulnerability of this lost, isolated soul as she wanders through London, seeking the help that never quite comes. Jenni Stacey also excels as mile-a-minute Peter, the friendless teen who can’t leave Freya alone.
But the real trouble comes from bold, careless Jasmine (Natalie Law), whose scorn for her sisters contributes to the downfall of both. Her dangerous insouciance and man-hunting skills are played with cold-eyed arrogance by Law.
Miri Gellert has a deft comic touch, and her pert, perfectly groomed shop assistant – aptly named Liberty – provides a golden moment as she gets into conversation with grungy Jasmine.
The men hold their own too, with Jerry Marwood a splendidly ramshackle Colin, and Alex McMorron slick and unscrupulous as Carter.
Alexander Gordon-Wood is an impressively irascible Robert Crannock, but his long expositions on the end of mankind could be summarised more succinctly by borrowing Private Frazer’s line: “We’re all doomed”.
Rachel Dingle’s multi-layered set works superbly through all the innumerable scene changes, and the roaring rock soundtrack keeps adrenaline levels high throughout. There’s also terrific lighting work from Leigh Mulpeter, and sound and video by Chris Czornyi.
Bo Boland directs the multi-tasking cast with a sure hand, guiding impressive stage debuts from newcomers Omar Austin and Rory Fairbairn.
‘‘Earthquakes In London’’ is a slick, funny and stirring show – and the Studio Theatre can be justly proud of its production.
First published 2 May 2014