DramaReviewSouth West

This Restless State – Phoenix, Exeter

Writer: Danielle Pearson

Music: Ella Wahlstrom

Director: Jemima James

Reviewer: Georgie Bird

This Restless State is performed by Jesse Fox and written by Danielle Pearson. Fox is a likeable and relatable guy, and takes the stage while Hanson is playing from a tape recorder. He briefly talks about how the 90’s were a time of optimism and then delves into Brexit (thankfully the play does not revolve solely around Brexit)!, stating that Brexit has left him with a persistent feeling of despondency.

Fox plays himself as well as two women. The play time travels between three periods of time: Berlin 1989, Rome 2052, and the present. The changes in time are marked by flashing lights, which works convincingly, reminiscent of a Doctor Who Tardis like effect. After Brexit has been covered, the lights flash and we are in 1989 Berlin, just after the Berlin Wall has fallen. We are introduced to a young woman with a somewhat pointless storyline about a David Hasselhoff concert. This does, however, lead to an entertaining and slightly bizarre moment of Jesse dancing to David Hasselhoff’s Freedom.

The audience is then transported to the future, Rome 2052. This appears to echo Syria today with a refugee crisis and voiceovers about chemical attacks. We are introduced to another young woman, deeply concerned about a referendum on whether there should be a one-child policy. While this section is not fleshed out enough, it does successfully raise some valid concerns about the future. This section has an underlying sense of anger against politicians for taking away people’s choices, which closely echoes a lot of current issues surrounding Brexit.

The most successful part of the play is when Jesse plays himself, desperate to cling on to the nostalgia of his childhood home. Everyone in Jesse’s generation can relate to this, with housing being unaffordable for many people, our childhood home may be the only home we ever know. At one-point Jesse’s anger reaches boiling point, letting out all his frustration at the audience. There are some comedic and poignant moments in this rant. These sections are by far the most engaging, perhaps because of the sparse staging, it is hard to envisage Jesse successfully as the other characters.

If close attention is paid, it does become clear how the three periods of time are linked, but the conclusion is not particularly satisfactory. The characters and periods of time are only vaguely sketched out, which makes it hard to care about them. Jesse does fill the stage well though, and you have to admire him for managing to fit Brexit and David Hasselhoff in one play.

While the play certainly makes some interesting points about the future, a lot of it comes off as somewhat incoherent rambling. Voice recordings and train noises are added to the future and past scenes to emphasise the change in time. The voice recordings work well in making the scenes feel eerie and akin to a nightmare, which fits with play’s post-apocalyptic theme. The constant time switches are disorientating, which successfully reflects the title of the play, emphasising that so many people now are in ‘a restless state’. The play certainly does leave you feeling restless, perhaps for not the right reasons, more for the want of a better conclusion.

Runs until 20 April 2018 | Image: Contributed

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Time-hopping monologue

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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