Monday, 20 May 2013
Theatre review: Pastoral
This is an assured piece of writing that paints a picture of nature giving humanity a taste of what it's like to have your world crushed under a very different one: Literally, as concrete gives way to grass, and where shops used to be there's now a babbling brook.
Eccleshare's writing does a good job of painting the world outside the flat, and I particularly liked the way the descriptions of towns becoming forests stayed true to what the title Pastoral conjures up, with the destruction of civilisation couched in the language of a rural idyll. As for how it's affecting things inside the flat, designer Michael Vale takes the plaudits here as his set is essentially a long sequence of coups de théâtre, bringing to the stage the invasion of the plants, and the havoc they wreak, in a number of inventive and sometimes amusing ways.
And this is most of all a funny play, which as well as the surreal humour of a plant-based apocalypse also has a lot of witty lines to recommend it, and a cast that know how to deliver them. I particularly liked the exchange between Hardy and Manz after the former's attempt at becoming a big-game hunter has less impressive results than expected, Riddell and Skinner an entertaining odd-couple. But the heart of the play is with Moll and Arthur (Polly Frame,) the 11-year-old boy who first brings his family to her door. I'm never a fan of the conceit where grown women play young boys, but Frame is more bearable at it than most, and as the story takes a sadder turn she and Calder-Marshall share some moving moments.
There's a lot to enjoy about Pastoral, which makes an environmental point while avoiding being preachy, simply turning the tables on the paving-over of the countryside and letting the story do the rest. Big business takes a lot of the blame, familiar high street shops getting name-checked as they fall in turn to become homes to deer and badgers. Although Ocado comes off better than most - Eccleshare suggesting that, one way or another, they'll make sure you don't go hungry.
Pastoral by Thomas Eccleshare is booking until the 8th of June at Soho Theatre.
Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes straight through.
1or Past Oral, as the usher insisted on pronouncing it