Directed by Christine Kimberley
Pros: A thought-provoking production with an intelligent and layered new script.
Cons: The action comes across a little cliché at times.
Our Verdict: Not for the politically apathetic. For anyone else, don’t miss out on this fascinating insight into recent world politics.
The Arab Spring was a movement which no-one expected. It all started with the self-immolation of a young, unemployed Tunisian graduate. Just 15 months later, no less than 4 governments across the Arab world had been overthrown, accompanied by on-going mass protests spreading like wildfire not only through the middle-east, but also the western world. The inequalities between rich and poor, the economic crisis and the birth of a new and angry social class – the highly qualified, tech savvy graduates with no hope of finding work – have acted as catalysts to this wave of anger. With the last of the Occupy London protesters having been evicted from the steps of St Paul’s only a few weeks ago, it is easy for young Londoners to picture themselves in Tahrir Square and think… why not?
This is the essence of The London Spring, a piece of new writing by journalist and author Francis Beckett. The premise is simple. We follow a well-off American doctor as he arrives in a dystopian London, where Britain has been reduced to a third-world country, perhaps in the wake of a harsh second recession or ruthless government cuts. Although it is a leap from reality, Beckett’s script draws the audience into this world, and makes it chillingly believable, with subtle hints relating back to current affairs. Although it has a plotline which drives the play forward, the piece is more a commentary on the the causes, attitudes and reasoning behind the various protest movements which have engulfed the Arab world, Europe and North America.
The play places the action in a tourist lounge at Waterloo. The set used to create this space is simple – a sign hanging above a bench. The emphasis in this production is clearly not on the set, lighting, or music, but on the script. As such, these elements are kept simple and effective, so as not to distract from the message.
To accomplish the task of aptly delivering Becket’s synthesis of recent global politics, the production relies on an experienced cast and honed, streamlined performances. One particular standout is Suzanne Kendall, whose portrayal of Catherine, a doctor-turned-prostitute, is incredibly moving and very emotional. Another strong performance comes from Ned Monaghan as the slimy Chuck Waldgren, an American insurance company owner. Mike Duran, in the lead role of the American doctor, delivers a subdued but effective performance, that of a character that is in disbelief at the state of the Britain he discovers. The audience are also treated to many excellent supporting performances, such as Lucien Morgan’s Freddie and Chloe Welsh’s Jane. Credit goes to Christine Kimberley for the delivery of the script, which could easily have become dry if misdirected.
Overall, The London Spring is a piece which is notable because it resonates so strongly with current events, and because it is perfectly timed. This is a play not only based on the Arab revolutions, it encapsulates western movements also: “We have to be dirt poor so other people can be filthy rich”, as said by Catherine in the play, could easily be a placard from an anti-banker demo or a slogan from the “We are the 99%” movement. The play has its flaws – for instance, Beckett does not touch on the internet as a catalyst of these movements, and some of the action comes across as a little cliché at times – but overall it delivers a fascinating synthesis without coming across as overbearing. Importantly, it is a very intelligent piece which approaches the subject from many angles through its array of different characters. The theatrical device of placing Londoners as third-world beggars works marvellously to force the audience into imagining the situation of, say Egyptians before the fall of Mubarak. If nothing else, it is a production which will leave you thinking. In essence, if you are apathetic about geopolitics, then perhaps this fringe production is not for you, but supporters of global capitalism and detractors alike will find The London Spring fascinating. In my view, it would be a shame to miss.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments in the section below!
The London Spring runs at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden until 25th March 2012.