SOPHIE PARROTT CDG
This Beautiful Future (Yard Theatre, Hackney)
Elodie is 17. She’s French. She lets down her hair and puts it up again. She finds reflective surfaces everywhere. She tests new looks.
Otto is 15. He’s a German soldier. He brushes his hair to make the shape of his head more perfectly oval. He tries not to look at himself in the mirror.
It’s 1944. Elodie and Otto are experiencing love for the very first time. Outside, the world around them is exploding. Inside, the room shakes. Elodie and Otto’s bodies touch.
Fusing youth with old age, the past with the present, pop tunes with Stalingrad, THIS BEAUTIFUL FUTURE is about love in the extreme.
Written by Rita Kalnejais (First Love is the Revolution, Soho Theatre ★★★★★ – Time Out) and directed by The Yard’s Artistic Director Jay Miller (The Mikvah Project, LINES, Removal Men), This Beautiful Future is a show about the moment when love confronts extremism.
Performances 25 April - 20 May 2017.
Buy Tickets here.
★★★★ The Guardian, Lyn Gardner: 'exquisite portrait of young love in the heat of war':
'Rita Kalnejais’s foxy First Love Is the Revolution at Soho theatre in London was one of 2015’s most distinctive plays, and this uncommon 70-minute show is similarly idiosyncratic, yet direct and truthful. The play and the production – exquisitely textured by the Yard’s artistic director, Jay Miller – have an immediacy and openness that matches the lovers. Moments that might come across as sentimental are stupidly beautiful and teary.
Hannah Millward’s flighty Elodie and Bradley Hall’s serious Otto are living during the second world war, but they could be teenagers from a century earlier, or now. Love is permanently transformative and transcendental. This pair have the self-absorbed unselfconsciousness and diffidence of all teenagers, alive and confident in their own beautiful futures, even as the world tumbles around their ears and they are bleached from history.
The dislocating fluidity of time is increased by two older performers, Alwyne Taylor and Paul Haley, who spend much of the evening in karaoke booths on either side of the stage, singing snatches from Adele’s Hello and Sammy Fain’s I Can Dream, Can’t I? Combined with our knowledge of how the war ended, it creates a growing sense of loss in an evening that is as tender as a burn.
As history marches forward, randomly knocking over anyone in its way, Taylor and Haley start to claim the stage, which becomes misted with regret as they voice their hopes, many of them prosaic, such as wanting to visit the gym more. It reminds us that we all become ghosts of our younger selves who once fizzed with the excitement of being alive and in love. We need to hang on to that feeling: the future may depend on it.'
★★★★★ The Stage, Fergus Morgan: Daringly Unconventional':
'Rita Kalnejais' kaleidoscopic new play This Beautiful Future mines this compellingly weighted scenario for all it's worth. In Jay Miller's bold, expressionist staging, which flaunts a virtuosic command of duskily shifting lighting, eclectic soundscapes and ironically reworked pop songs, it is nothing short of mesmerising.
Elodie is a cutely narcissistic dreamer, laced with a flirty playfulness by Hannah Millward. Bradley Hall's Otto, bewitched by Hitler's nauseating rhetoric, puts one, strangely, in mind of Rodney Trotter – but not in a bad way.
While these young lovers embrace and bicker on Cecile Tremolieres' grassy, feather-strewn set, an older couple – Paul Haley and Alwyne Taylor – supply detached lines and fragments of song from isolated booths, with karaoke-style surtitles intermittently scrolling across the back wall.
What's it all about? Who knows? One of Kalnejais' play's most powerful tools is its refusal to be pinned down, its insistence that nothing is straightforward. Perhaps it's a meditation on missed opportunities. Perhaps it's a fascinating historical thought experiment. Or perhaps it suggests that, even in a volatile world among the unlikeliest of people, love and beauty can momentarily bloom. An extraordinary work, from an increasingly impressive theatre.'
★★★★ whatsonstage.com, Matt Trueman:
'Life, in Rita Kalnejais' superb and surprising play, is as delicate as it is hardy. [...] As in Robert Holman's plays, a fleeting encounter sheds light on the whole world in This Beautiful Future. Otto and Elodie overturn history. They remind us that war doesn't override love, that ordinary things happen in extraordinary times, fresh hope in adversity. People still feed cats, even as firing squads take aim. Teenagers still kiss. Chicks still hatch. History's too simplistic by half. Bradley Hall's fumbling, fresh-faced Nazi, his grey uniform baggy and creased, disrupts the stereotype of oil-slick SS men, while Hannah Millward's Elodie is all springy life; a light breeze in times we imagine as airless.'
★★★★★ Postcards From The Gods Blog, Andrew Haydon:
'There’s a thing that happens right at the end of Jay Miller’s already-extraordinary production of Rita Kalnejais’s astonishing new play that moves it from “one of the best things I’ve seen this year” to “one of the best things, full stop.”
And I’m not going to tell you what it is.
[Maybe I’ll fill it in after this run closes, but right now I just want everyone I know to go and see this play.]
The second masterstroke is the language/tone Rita Kalnejais’s script, how it’s been directed by Jay Miller, how it’s performed by Hannah Millward (Elodie) and Bradley Hall (Otto). It feels completely contemporary. Millard especially has absolutely nailed that way that (some) teenage girls talk, the way they inflect their words, the whole shooting match. Similarly, Hall does a sterling job with teenage-boy diffidence – that thing where they seem embarrassed by at least fifty percent of what they’re saying that they seem to be trying to un-say it even as they speak. I’m not suggesting that the performances or the script are a 100% accurate document of precisely what this encounter would have been like (both the performers are speaking contemporary English, after all, and only pretending to be 15 (Otto) and 17 (Elodie)); instead, it’s much more valuable, it transposes the action, pretty much, to now, but leaves the attitudes and expectations of the time in place. It’s relatable and unrelatable simultaneously. They’re us, and not-us. It comments on the now and on the then. As a result, it feels like some of the deftest, most impressive new writing for the stage I’ve seen; supported by performances entirely equal to it, which in turn lift the writing. These performances seem to inhabit both “truthfulness” and “comment on” at the same time.
[...] The whole thing enjoys that kind of rare theatrical alchemy where you reall can’t pin down what the extra thing that’s happened is, but all these seemingly simple parts taken together somehow transform into something huge.
And then there’s the thing at the end, which almost made me cry.
Mostly over the sudden sense of “how the hell do people keep on letting things get so bad?” (“particularly when [redacted]?”) clarified so perfectly here. So, yes. If you see nothing else in a theatre this year, see this, and be amazed and perhaps troubled that people are still making things this beautiful in our horrible, horrible world.'
Photograph: Richard Lakos