Earthquakes in London – National Theatre

A three hour plus play spanning the 1960s to the 2520s is never going to be easy work, and while Earthquakes in London is not perfect it gets pretty darn close. It ia brave, epic and full of theatrical invention. Mike Bartlett has crafted a grand saga that sweeps across the years but also manages to be intimate when required. Headlong Theatre’s co-production with the National Theatre proves to be a highlight of the theatrical year.

At the heart is the tale of three sisters, however this is no Chekhovian diatribe.

Political rising star Sarah (Lia Williams) is battling her conscience as well as her domestic life, sister Freya (Anna Madeley) is coping with the traumas of pregnancy while youngest sister Jasmine (Jessica Raine) is in full teenage rebellion. Through in some decissions about the role of business and goverment, family loyalty and the ever present threat of global warming and you have a modern day epic.

Lives interweave as dark family secrets are revealed and the ever growing threat of climatic disaster looms. Scenes criss-cross London and while the promised earthquake turns out to be more of a wobble the seismic tremors are certainly felt.

These multiple, overlapping threads may confuse some, and, on first reflection it can seem a bit of a mess, but Rupert Goold’s inherently theatrical direction manages to steer the audience through this meandering tale.

There is so much happening within the thrilling conversion of the Cottesloe space that it is sometime difficult to know where to look. Although throwing just about every theatrical event trick in the book at the show, the staging works to draw in the viewer into this complex world.

Perhaps at times Bartlett plies the green message with to heavy a hand and the lengthy script would benefit from a few judicial cuts but this is one of the most thrilling advances in theatre for many a year.

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