Review – Pastoral at the Soho Theatre

ImageEcological change and subsequent disaster is ubiquitous – from the shoutouts to reduce our carbon footprint to the extra charge of acquiring plastic bags – and it’s often reflected in art. However, Thomas Eccleshare’s vision is a bleakly humorous one – a quite unique angle. With dystopian theatre, there is an inherent fear that our suspension-of-disbelief faculties will be overworked and leave us exhausted and unhappy, but that’s not the case here. Dialogue is used convincingly in forms of reportage of the riots outside – nature juxtaposed with household names “weeds growing in Nandos, rabbits in the yoghurt aisle at Aldi”, with the set used to its full potential as it slowly degrades before us like a crumpled plastic bag. The floor snaps and bends throughout, a tree slowly grows through the heart of the inside of the house as nature slowly takes its hold. Flowers are shot through to the ground and it all feels scarily believable.

The characters do this justice too. The old and young bond in a crisis – Moll (Calder-Marshall) and Arthur (Polly Frame) find each other by chance and an unlikely alliance forms between the pair, with some amusing anecdotes and musing on past and future. The theme of King Arthur and the romanticised notion of Pastoral is explored between the two, which of course has now been completely rewritten. The boys looking after them have to go through the ordeal of nature’s way of exposing under the surface – dealing with hunting and gutting with some funny but ultimately bleak moments. In particular, the plight of the Ocado worker can make you laugh, wince and cry. There are other great moments in the play, but I won’t spoil it – just see it!

All in all, when we see how detached we are from the processes of our lives – and the obsession with the end result and surface – it’s like nature revolting. Their products must be respected, which obviously has not been the case. They mention that they cement the grass to block them out, but now the grasses have become resilient. With all this in mind, it doesn’t feel like a lesson in the classroom.

It’s black comedy of high quality. As Moll says “What’s the difference between a hen night and a zoo? One is where hairy animals are prodded in cages by men in uniforms, the other’s a gift shop.” Hear hear!

Pastoral won the Soho Verity Bargate Award in 2011. There are strong Sci-Fi elements running through the play as nature fights technology as well as the “solution” to the problem. It’s rather reassuring for me and I’m sure many others that this element of science fiction theatre is being recognised and rewarded.

Ready to Blast Off!

Before I start, I apologise for getting the completely the wrong order of events – I went to this way before my graduation but hey, I tend to write things in nibs and get back to them later. The blog is really helpful in terms of writing and saving drafts.

So I was hoping to get a slice of the SciFi theatre scene (as alien as it may seem – hur hur), and during my journey managed to get a ticket for the Soho Theatre’s Utopia. Unfortunately, I never got to see it but instead got a refund ticket for A Walk on Part, newly transferred to the Arts Centre Space in Covent Garden, which was extremely informative, very poignant and interspersed with sprinklings of the British humour that I’ve come to love. Apart from that, I also got a ticket to the Blast Off Night, which is described as the only Sci Fi theatre night in London. I think I do remember reading about an experimental evening at Battersea’s 503, but I can’t be sure!

This was in the Soho space downstairs – I booked it in the spur of the moment and hurried down to Tottenham to get a sneak peek. The first thing that struck me was how busy the place was. The downstairs space has a nice rectangular stage that doesn’t jut out too much so allows for tables and chairs and the like, but it was teeming to the rafters. It was hard to find space to move, which is of course a positive thing to see that such an event would attract that large an audience, but uncomfortable in the moment!

In summary, the night was a very mixed bag – from the sceptical speculation to the pantomime and the cabaret, including a sideshow on interspecies romance between humans and Martians, terraforming and the mix between utopia/dystopia to a snapshot of the rapture and post-apocalyptic breeding and its rather awkward mechanics behind it. It definitely held its weight in holding the audience’s attention and got across the ideas very effectively on the stage, no matter how tongue in cheek they were. You’d be surprised how you can visualise a space carrier and a planet with human bodies – HGI instead of CGI?

So there’s a little review for you. I will be doing some literature reviews – from the classic to the not so classic! Hmmm, maybe I’ll do one on Foundation as I’ve revisited it quite recently. Enjoy!