The ability of theatre to engage with the most pressing issues of the day is impressively realised as Earthquakes in London delivers a vast, multi-stranded epic on global warming.
Acclaimed British playwright Mike Bartlett avoids the preachiness of overtly political theatre by focusing on the domestic dramas consuming a dysfunctional family. The three adult daughters of a famous climate scientist each respond in different ways to their father's warnings of impending global devastation and his cold-hearted neglect of his parenting responsibilities.
The story is given a wildly chaotic structure as it swings across different time periods and intense personal encounters are interspersed with surreal intrusions of song and dance.
But director Katy Maudlin brings a strong sense of coherence to the fractured narrative and the three-hour plus running time of the original has been skilfully trimmed to an energetically paced 130 minutes including interval.
A large design team work well together with video projection, lighting, sound, costume and set all contributing to a haphazard aesthetic that echoes the slow disintegration of world where compromise, distraction and feelings of inadequacy work against the need for purposeful action.
The play offers meaty roles for the students of The Actors' Program and the 16-member cast rise to the challenge with energetic and heartfelt performances. Cast doubling effectively contributes to the sense of dislocation as some of the lead roles are shared by two actors who at times appear on stage together and deliver key lines in tandem.
As the play moves towards its conclusion, we are given alternative visions of the future with the despair of an apocalyptic catastrophe set against a more hopeful image of a strange messianic leader opening the way to sustainable future.
What: Earthquakes in London
Where & When: The Basement, until November 25
Reviewer: Paul Simei-Barton