There’s a statement, a sort of strapline, that accompanies the title on the front cover of the programme of This Beautiful Future. Fortunately or unfortunately it doesn’t turn out to be entirely true: “Two teenagers lie naked together.” Perhaps I’m being too pedantic, but unless there’s some alternative definition of ‘naked’ that I’ve missed somewhere along the way, the statement is unnecessarily provocative. For most of the performance, political events and war effort updates come across as less significant than they were in the closing stages of the Second World War, because Elodie (Hannah Millward) and Otto (Bradley Hall) are young ‘uns in love, and everything else, whilst important, is relative in the context of a blossoming relationship.
But even that doesn’t sufficiently sanitise Otto’s allegiance to the Third Reich (and rightly so), as he describes with alarming calmness how he followed instructions to shoot to kill. Elodie’s horror at this news doesn’t faze him in the slightest, though given their relationship is consummated later in the play, it can be reasonably assumed love seems to conquer even death. Some of Elodie’s school friends taunt and bully her for her actions (talk about fraternising with the enemy), though quite how they found out about what happened in the first place wasn’t made clear.
There are two others in the play, who act as a Chorus. Alwyne Taylor and Paul Haley either play themselves or characters that happen to go by Alwyne Taylor and Paul Haley. There are two reasons for my ambiguity. The first is my usual reluctance to give everything away. The second is that they are playing scripted parts, whilst retaining their own names, and a note in the programme suggests that some of the lines they speak change nightly.
This is possible as they are, for the majority of the show, stood in recording booths, with what words they must deliver displayed on screens in front of them. They are wonderful performers, but I can’t help feeling their talents are underused in this production. Some of what they say is deliberately muffled by sound design, and I find it bizarre that actors are being employed to say lines that nobody can understand.
There’s an absurdist element, too, in this play, as it lurches from August 1944 to the present day. A reference to watching Broadchurch is inserted in the dying moments of the play (Millward was in a previous series of that television drama) and at varying points the audience is treated to, amongst other tunes, ‘Someone Like You’, made famous by Adele. I couldn’t make the connections across the generations, and the closing scene of the show has too melodramatic an ending for me to take seriously.
To a degree, the show redeems itself with due care and attention being given to the handling of live chicks (seconds before curtain call, the audience is begged to withhold applause until the chicks have been taken out of the auditorium) – though again, was that really necessary at all?
It was interesting, though, to witness how WW2 events may have been feasibly perceived in the eyes of the young. But this production is too cluttered, and would have functioned better as a straightforward period piece of theatre.
Review by Chris Comaweng
With karaoke reworks of classic love songs, This Beautiful Future will be The Yard Theatre’s first play about an historical topic. It will see Artistic Director Jay Miller take another look at the theme of love in extreme contexts, a recurring thread in his growing repertoire.
“Our brilliant cast are helping us make This Beautiful Future right now, and so I don’t really know what it is about, but it might be a show about going back, in order to go forward. About tenderness in a time of violence. About love and war, times in which reality is so heightened it feels unreal. About two vulnerable people looking for safety. People who are falling in love, and falling through time.
I hope that in making This Beautiful Future, Rita and I will create a beautiful world which speaks of real feelings in unreal, dreamy worlds.” At once tender, heartbreaking and viscerally moving This Beautiful Future has one eye on exploring the past with another on changing the present.
Written by Rita Kalnejais (First Love is the Revolution, Soho Theatre), it will be Jay Miller’s fourth directing credit as Artistic Director of The Yard Theatre following The Mikvah Project, Lines and Removal Men.
THIS BEAUTIFUL FUTURE
Written by Rita Kalnejais
Directed by Jay Miller
Designed by Cécile Trémolières
Composed by Jonah Brody
Sound by Josh Anio Grigg
Lighting by Christopher Nairne
Video by Sarah Readman
Casting by Sophie Parrott CDG
This Beautiful Future
The Yard Theatre Unit 2a Queens Yard, White Post Lane, London E9 5EN
Tuesday 25 April – Saturday 20 May 2017, 8pm