Boy meets girl, it’s one of the most popular stories in the world. In this case, German soldier meets young French girl, just as World War II approaches an end. It’s the story of star-crossed lovers; ‘Romeo and Juliet’, one might say, which risks being overdone and clichéd. But Rita Kalnejais’ This Beautiful Future is anything but a cliché. The beauty and innocence woven into this story sets it aside from your average romantic drama and establishes it as a timeless love story for the ages.
This is a simply captivating story of young love, and the awkwardness that comes with it. Both Katie Eldred and Freddie Wise, Elodie and Otto respectively, enact this perfectly. The audience share their awkward giggles, as they navigate first kisses and awkward pauses during their picnic date of wine and cheese. Both Eldred and Wise successfully portray the naivety of the two characters, who come from vastly contrasting backgrounds. Significantly, the historical backdrop is not mentioned during the first 15 minutes or so: it is merely a young boy and a young girl falling in love for the very first time, and the silliness that comes with that. The direction from Chirolles Khalil phenomenally captures tiny, electric moments, such as when Otto brushes his arm past Elodie, whilst the intimacy of the Jermyn Street Theatre allows us to see the tiniest glimmer in her eyes: every movement is well thought out and executed.
The backdrop of chaos happening outside this intimate little room is almost forgotten. However, cracks begin to show and, as the characters’ external lives are revealed, their situations snap us back to reality. Otto speaks of his idol, Hitler, and it soon becomes clear that he is infatuated. Wise performs this monologue with a romanticism that sucks you in to the point of discomfort. Yet simultaneously, in the couple’s shared, beautiful moment as they look after a small chicken’s egg, waiting for it to hatch, it is like the rest of the world doesn’t matter, and I really wanted it to stay that way.
The blossoming relationship between Otto and Elodie and the little life they are creating within the egg is cleverly juxtaposed with the death and destruction on the outside, further represented by Niall Mckeever’s brilliant set. The harsh black spikes emerging from the walls suggest the sharp reality trying to fight its way into the beautiful setting of their bed, picnic and flowers. The form also compliments the second half of the play, which has an abstract element as divisions between the two lovers begin to appear. We glimpse what would happen if the characters stayed in blissful harmony (accompanied by some fuzzy friends). We also see the possible future if those spikes forcibly separate them.
This Beautiful Future is definitely a reminder of how passionate and innocent young love can be, capturing the desperation to make things work, however much life gets in the way. The bubble of Otto and Elodie’s love is one you would want to live in forever.
Written by: Rita Kalnejais
Directed by: Chirolles Khalil
Produced by: David Doyle
This Beautiful Future is playing at Jermyn Street Theatre until 11 September. Further information and booking via the below link.