“No one ever changed the world alone”
With pretty much every production of hers that I see (most memorably Lela & Co. and I’d Rather Goya Robbed Me Of My Sleep Than Some Other Arsehole), Jude Christian is becoming one of those directors whose work cannot be missed. And with the 2015 Bruntwood Prize-winning Parliament Square, now opening at the Bush after an October premiere at the Royal Exchange, that reputation doesn’t look in any danger at all.
She’s helped here by a magnificently fearless piece of writing from James Fritz, split almost schizophrenically into two contrasting parts. The first presents us with Kat, a woman on the precipice of leaving her husband and their young son to commit some unspeakable act, being urged along the way by an enigmatic figure far more bluntly daring than she seems to be. The second then takes us past the act, which failed, into an uncertain world of uneasy compromise.
It’s uneasy and uncertain because Fritz never spells out directly what it is that Kat is protesting about, what the change is that she wants to wreak on the world. And so his writing takes on an ephemeral but awesome power as it explores what it means to take direct action, the diametric opposition of self-sacrifice and familial responsibility blurred into something disturbingly compelling as Kat and her family tread their way through a world that is becoming increasingly dangerous.
That sense of ominous foreboding is inculcated brilliantly by Fritz and Christian, in a second act passage that fast-forwards through a number of years, stopping every so often for jagged shards of dialogue weighed down with peril as the cast, perched on stools, slowly draw their feet as far up from the floor as they can. It’s a chillingly beautiful image, devastatingly effective, and one which helps the play to its glitteringly explosive end.
Esther Smith (the original Delphi Diggory) is painfully excellent as Kat, whether battling internal voices (a striking Lois Chimimba) or external pain (Kelly Hotten shines as a physiotherapist with an agenda). And Christian is finely tuned to the shifting rhythms of the play, ensuring that we’re neither too at ease or too alienated by the formal adventurousness but rather, intrigued by the questions it poses – how far can you go, should you go, to fight for what you believe in?