Pros: Excellent sound and lighting.
Cons: The sequence of events is hard to follow.
In 1989 when the Berlin wall was torn down, David Hasselhoff’s ‘I’ve Been Looking for Freedom’ became the anthem for many hopeful citizens dreaming of a borderless Europe. People celebrated this historical moment as the beginning of a new life of opportunities for them and their children; international leaders recognised the benefits of free trade, open borders and, arguably, the use of a single currency. The European Union was taking its first steps.
For the Brits, and the many European citizens who planted roots in the UK, this dream of cohesion and prosperity was broken abruptly in the early hours of June 24th 2016, when the country’s intention to leave the EU was expressed by referendum.
As it currently stands, nobody knows what the future will bring, but playwright Danielle Pearson speculates on how Europe will look in 2052; Italy will no longer cope with the pressure of migratory waves coming from the South, and an upcoming referendum will consult all European citizens about the so-called ‘one-child policy.’
This is a dystopian portrayal that risks sending out the wrong message. Is Pearson trying to suggest that, by letting all the migrants in, Europe incurs a risk of overpopulation? I very much hope not. Further, how is a Europe-wide referendum born out of a state of affairs within which rising forces strive to dissolve the European Union completely? How it survived for so long in this imagined future remains unclear.
On the notes of Hasselhoff’s hit, these three scenarios intertwine to create a cause and effect connection through one-man storytelling. In 1989 the young narrator is in Berlin, following Margaret’s first reactions to the fall of the Wall. In 2052 he’s in Italy, where he describes Galina’s dilemmas as the daughter of migrant parents. In 2017 he’s in England, venting his financial and personal struggles, due to a disappointing acting career. Autobiographic, that is?
These were my favourite sequences, and the ones I found easiest to relate to. However, as my partner aptly pointed out, the risk of talking about everyday life within a bland plot is that the mind of the spectator can drift. As a result, on a few occasions my attention diverted from the performance to my own thoughts on freedom and my family history of migration.
Fortunately, the periodically changing shades of light, and Ella Wahlström’s immersive soundscape helped to awaken my senses and brought my focus back to the episodes recounted by Jesse Fox on Ben Pacey’s raw and evocative set.
My lasting impression of This Restless State is that of a production where the technical values overshadow the quality of the plot, which should rest on a stronger foundation and use more mortar to keep its bricks together.
Author: Danielle Pearson
Director: Jemima James
Booking Until: 24 March 2018
Box Office: 020 7582 7680
Booking Link: http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/this-restless-state