Because of the manner in which the storyline pans out, it’s not entirely clear what happens to Elodie (Katie Eldred), a young French lady who falls in love with Otto (Freddie Wise) during the German occupation of France in the Second World War. Well, it is, but one would have to know about ‘horizontal collaboration’ to work it out, and the play ends before retribution against those deemed to have fraternised with the enemy is carried out. Here, there’s an innocence about the pair that arguably doesn’t exist in contemporary society anymore: perhaps, with so much information available online at our fingertips, younger generations are somewhat more well-informed, or at least more likely to question whatever it is they see and hear, even if it is from ‘official’ sources.
Otto, a German soldier, thinks he will be posted to London in the near future, as the propaganda machine has led him to believe Britain is about to go the way of France and come under Nazi occupation. But Elodie has been listening to the radio: the BBC World Service has reported on the D-Day landings. Cue an argument. But otherwise, much of the story could have been set in almost any other context. This is, essentially, two people who are attracted to one another in more ways than one, and as far as they are aware, there’s no reason why they can’t continue as they are.
The play follows two trends commonplace in plays written in the last fifteen years or so. First, events are not dramatized in chronological order. Some clever staging and (literal) signposting helps considerably to overcome the possible difficulties in following when and where each scene is set. Second, everything seems to be, all things considered, going along just fine – more or less – until a critical incident comes along that has a huge impact on both the story and its characters.
This is a sharper show than a previous version at the Yard Theatre in 2017. I only really mention that other production as there are, for narrative purposes, actual chicks that make an on-stage appearance in the final scene. At the Yard, the audience was asked to refrain from applause until the chicks had left the theatre, in order to mitigate against causing them any alarm or distress due to the noise generated by applause. No such precaution was taken here, although the chicks did not appear to be distressed as they were included in the curtain call. I cannot claim any knowledge as to what the best approach is and have simply reported what happened.
While the play offers little, if anything, in terms of fresh insight into how passionate young love can be – something explored, for instance, in Romeo and Juliet – it is a stark reminder of how the human mind and heart can be manipulated to commit terrible acts without feeling the slightest regret, just because that mind and heart truly believes that what they are doing is for the greater good. There are moments when the gaps between anybody saying or doing anything is frankly too long. But otherwise, it’s a thoughtful and intricate production, whose message of straightforward love in a stressful and difficult world is remarkably relevant for our own troublesome times.
Review by Chris Omaweng
From 18 August – 11 September Jermyn Street Theatre stages This Beautiful Future by acclaimed writer Rita Kalnejais (Babyteeth, First Love is the Revolution). Intimate, tender and sensual, this captivating portrayal of first love was highly praised on its debut at the Yard Theatre in 2017. Directed by Chirolles Khalil (Lie With Me; Be The One by Rudimental) it features stage and screen stars Katie Eldred (Hunger – Arcola; The Rubenstein Kiss – Southwark Playhouse) and Freddie Wise (Poldark, Maleficent 2, Brave New World).
THIS BEAUTIFUL FUTURE
By Rita Kalnejais
18 August to 11 September 2021