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Most of all, it is has a life beyond words. For the second time this year James Macdonald has directed a dance for those normally considered embarrassingly old to take to the floor. In Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone, his cast of four sixtysomethings and seventysomethings beautifully hand-jived to Da Doo Ron Ron. Now he captures a generation at play and in fear, as they put together a synchronised routine to Ain’t It Funky Now. They are looking back – they made up the moves together when they were young; they are just for a moment defying the future.
Kirkwood takes her time. She has, however, written a genuinely disturbing play: one not simply about nuclear power but about the heavy price we may pay in the future for the profligacy of the present. Whether you are a parent or not, the play leaves you an abundance of ideas on which to ruminate.
Lucy Kirkwood's new play is a richly suggestive and beautifully written piece of work, provoking questions that will continue to nag and expand in your mind long after the lights have slowly died on its extraordinary final sequence – two women performing a yoga routine while a man slops out a cottage floor and the whole stage is engulfed by the sound of underwater church bells and images of the rolling waves that can wreck and redeem.
It’s a dark and accusatory play in many ways, beneath its polite surface. I found its suggestion that sacrifice is the only solution a troubling one, but that’s a mark of good writing: to make you question yourself, to get your blood up. A couple of the dramatic beats feel forced and there are sizeable cracks in its narrative logic but Kirkwood’s play is never less than compelling.
Picking up on a glancing reference to Dunwich, the Anglo-Saxon town which disappeared under the waves of the North Sea, the production attains at its end a mysterious symbolism that feels, thanks to the meticulous writing and equally nuanced performances of James McDonald’s production, entirely earned. Chimerica transferred to the West End. I can see no reason why this shouldn’t do so, too.