Passionate, polished, sexy, sophisticated, energetic and thoughtful – such adjectives I don’t use often in reviews, yet they all can be entirely deservedly applied to Be Good Revolutionaries, which opened last week at the Ovalhouse.
The phrase “devised by the cast” in the programme struck fear into my heart when I read it – some truly excruciating nights at the theatre have such origins – but this is a production that has not the slightest feel of being patched together.
The storyline, about the collapse of a family living in the forest, largely cut off from the world, waiting for their father, a revolutionary, to return, is tight and strong, without being overneat. Seldom has the fact that both families and revolutions destroy individuals been so well presented.
And the production is tightly and effectively directed by Georgina Sowerby and Jon Lee, with an original, lively set (designed by Christopher Lawley) that even harnesses the power of smell through a shredded bark “floor” (which also makes a grave).
The cast – Anna (Juliet Prague) and her three children, Emilia (Laura O’Toole) – the dutiful one; Red (Francasca Dale) – the sexually frustrated rebel; and Curly(Alex Britton) – the cossetted lone male in the household; do a fine job, and when they’re joined by an injured soldier (Liam Clarke) and the spirit of Dark (Citlalli Millan), an apparently forgotten fourth child, the in-the-round stage, is ably filled with powerful emotions.
Prague and Clarke present one of the sexiest, most powerful and utterly non-cringe-inducing sex scenes that I’ve seen on the stage, and Millan, in an almost non-speaking part, manages to powerfully haunt the stage while remaining invisible to the other actors.
If there’s a weak part of this show it’s the music – particularly the sung parts, which were difficult to follow – but the priestess-like figure (Rebecca Thorn) who provides most of the music does introduce a universalising element to the characters’ tragedy, and the the instrumental music worked well.
The subject matter makes it difficult – it would be a real sellling job to get a mainstream theatre audience to a show like this – but in terms of quality, this is a production that would sit perfectly comfortably in the West End.
See it if you can!
Be Good Revolutionaries continues at the Ovalhouse until June 23.