Brighton Fringe 2021
Daniel is a climatologist and he knows some seriously bad weather is on its way. Fiona knows his glass is half empty but she is determined to make the absolute best of their relationship. What neither of them knows is whether all they’ve built together can survive the coming storm. Is this the end of the world or the start of something wonderful?
Let’s start with the short version of the review; this is an excellent piece of theatre, topical, very well written, excellently acted and genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny.
For those of you who want to know more, read on.
The story centres around Daniel, a climatologist who knows climate change is unstoppable. It’s certainly topical. The plot focuses on two timelines, now and a point in the future. The story jumps between these points in time before converging in a dramatic conclusion. This is not a new format.
As the play unfolds, the cast of four brings alive the characters personal stories. Weaving its way through this, the arguments and issues about climate change push the story along. The debates cover climate change/climate change denial, the understanding of science/scientists and the political/real-world consequences of change.
This is a cleverly written piece. The characterisations are believable, the dialogue is funny, and the multiple plot lines coalesce into a satisfactory ending. The quality of the writing allows the cast to display their considerable talents.
The blurb describes this as dark comedy. This is a much over-used phrase, one that can sink the heart of the most robust reviewer. All too often, plays turn out to be dark and omit the comedy. In this case, it scores highly in both categories. Sometimes the humour is gentle enough to raise a smile, but more often, it’s genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.
As for the cast, they are universally excellent.
The actors bring confidence, energy and skillfully manage the complicated, allowing everything to flow.
Daniel (John Black) is believable as the geeky, nerdy scientist. More at home with his data than people and relationships. It is easy to feel for him as he struggles to make sense of everything. His comic timing is spot on.
Fiona (Pip O’Neill) steals the comedy plaudits, giving her character sharp wit, with a greater understanding of events than Daniel and embellished by a delightful use of colourful language.
The harassed loss adjuster, Grenelle (Karina Mills), conveys the cold-hearted attitude of the business person who understands the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Jimmy (Liam Murray Scott) moves the story along, providing the perfect foil and counter to Daniel.
The cast works well together.
The Direction (Luke Ofield and Chersitin Kempell) ensures the story rattles along. They manage to balance the complex interplay of plot-line and cast, drawing out the best from the actors. Key points are brought to the fore and reinforced with humour. It is a very accomplished piece of theatre.
There are a couple of small points that bear further consideration.
Telling a story from two different points in time and then converging the timelines introduces complexity. Without knowing what is going on, the audience may be confused by this random jumping around. In an effort to address this, there is a clock/weather report above the stage, but it takes a while to work out what is going on. Eventually you get the point, and the story can move on.
The second point is structural.
It is clear from the start what is going to happen. We can see the main plot points and the inevitable conclusion, almost from the off. There are two ways to view this, as a discussion with another audience member illustrates.
His view is that this does not matter. The quality of the writing, the performances and the direction more than makes up for this shortfall, ensuring it is possible to enjoy the play for what it is. On this, we agree.
My view is that better concealment of the conclusion would make it better.
I think of it as akin to jumping to the last chapter of a Sherlock Holmes story in order to find out the ending. I regularly reread Holmes stories, I know all the endings, and although I enjoy the re-reading, it never matches the thrill of that first reading.
The final point relates to the wider cultural context.
The play features arguments, discussions and issues with climate change. Between Two Waves was written in 2012, since then the climate debate has moved on. Scientist are now in almost universal agreement that climate change is happening. Donald Trump is no longer in power, and Joe Biden understands the importance of addressing the issue. Governments across the world, industry and wider society are taking the issue seriously. The arguments aren’t about whether we should change things, but how fast.
Nerdy scientists have been shoved into the back room and been replaced by younger, trendier media-savvy spokespeople. Greta Thunberg is making everyone aware of the issue. All of this means that the climate change debates within the play are in danger of becoming out of date. While they are still central to the piece, the producers should consider a revision.
This is an excellent piece of theatre. Centred around climate change, it joins people to the debate. It is very well written, with sparkling dialogue, good characterisation and great performances. This is an excellent piece of theatre. As a dark comedy, it is both, dark and funny. I, along with the rest of the audience, really enjoyed it. Overall, this is an Excellent Show.