When one woman decides to make her life a political act, a family are thrown into confusion and all around her are left to question: how do we truly act for change? What does real change demand of us? Parliament Square follows the unnerving story of Kat (Esther Smith), as she takes up an extreme position against her government.
It’s a story that well suits today’s political climate – clearly wrought from the dangerous sink into discontent felt across the Western world today – though it is especially careful not to place itself in any particular time. For me, this meant an opportunity to engage with the deep moral question at its heart, unhindered by contextual specificity. Others may find this frustrating, preferring a more detailed approach to political questioning. As an exploration of responsibility, extremism and perspective, I was thoroughly engaged and unconcerned with the exact time period of its setting.
Is a political stunt enough of a dedication to the cause? The level to which any one of us is responsible for the world around us – the extent to which any one of us can influence it – is at the heart of this chilling piece of new writing from James Fritz. Moments of lightness flicker past, the seemingly devastating path Kat follows firmly empathetic, tethered in reality, even if the time and setting are kept quite vague. Moments between mother (Joanne Howarth) and daughter are particularly relatable, the certainty of Kat’s actions thrown into doubt as a mother tries merely to protect her own offspring.
The staccato dialogue is delivered with incredible grace across the entire cast, serving particularly well in demonstrating the passing years. The direction of this sequence is very effective, and director Jude Christian is to be commended for a play that is chilling without appealing to stereotypically shocking tactics. The language, the themes and performances demonstrate all the pain of Parliament Square; the opening sequence, in particular, is spine-tingling.
There are a whole series of standout female performances on offer here, including Lois Chimimba as the Voice/Jo, Kelly Hotten as the Physio and Seraphina Beh as Catherine. All three are sparkling in their moments, complementing a powerful lead performance from Esther Smith. The scenes between Smith and Beh are particularly excellent, the fragility and difficulty of their relationship utterly fascinating. Fritz is to be complimented on such a layered piece of writing, offering up a Bechdel test-passing piece of theatre with excellent characters.
The elegant exploration of what lies between terrorism and political activism, insanity and faith, makes Parliament Square one of the best plays you can see right now.
In his powerful new play Parliament Square, James Fritz interrogates the draw of extreme demonstration, compassionately exploring the impact and fall-out of a single, selfless act of protest.
Kat gets up one morning, leaves her family behind, and travels to London to carry out an act that will change her life and, she hopes, everyone else’s. But what are the real consequences?
A Bush Theatre and Royal Exchange Theatre co-production
by James Fritz
directed by Jude Christian
designed by Fly Davis
cast – Damola Adelaja, Seraphina Beh, Lois Chimimba, Kelly Hotten, Joanne Howarth and Jamie
Bush Theatre 30 November 2017 – 6 January 2018