Thursday, 7 March 2019

REVIEW: Do You Love This Planet? at the Tristan Bates Theatre

I was just listening to a lecture about film that explained how during World War II, there were some notable films that preferred to praise the importance of fighting for a cause than for personal desires. And then, I walked into this play.

“Do you love this planet?” is a three-person play revolving around Rachel (Lucy Lowe), a 30-something mother who we meet as she wakes up next to her husband Schumann. She’s proud to have recently been appointed the position of PR officer for an environmental defence group, FFF. The group’s slogan, “Do you love this planet?”, has been on her mind. She’s taking it very seriously, as one should, really, except that so many of us don’t! As the play progresses, we understand how each word in the slogan has its importance, and how we should really ask ourselves whether we love our planet like we do our children. 

Rachel’s teenage son Alan, hooked on his smartphone and of the generation that no longer believes in privacy, has a curiously close relationship to his mother, and the trio who live under the same roof seem less and less suited to each other as we learn about them. While screens show the characters being filmed, sometimes they seem more like animals than humans. 

Alexander Matthews has written an at times uncomfortable and always intimate story. Here is a family whose members seem to be very self-involved. Schumann admits comfortably that our generation’s response to everything is distance, distraction and entertainment. This seems like a very sad thing, to think that there is a majority of people who don’t even realise this. Is the world ending? Let’s distract ourselves, it’s the only way. Rachel says that past generations have always fought for something, but asks what we are fighting for today. Catastrophe is imminent, so why isn’t everyone fighting? 

Schumann is an intriguing character. First of all, I wonder why people call him by a surname, unless this is his first name. Moreover, we never really find out what he does for a living. He, Rachel and Alan seem to be living in an elegant, even posh home with fancy whiskey glasses. Schumann also enjoys watching rowing championships. As we watch him drink more and more, we wonder what it will take for him to take that extra step to try and understand his wife. 

Director Antony Law, together with movement director Kate Lush and designer
Adrian Gee have created an elegant white space surrounded by screens that seem to enlarge the theatre’s actual space. The actors are completely comfortable with each other and I enjoy shows where we focus much more on the story than on the individual parts of a show – this is a sign of a strong vision. 

Eamonn O’Dwyer, music and sound designer, reminds us of the weight technology has on us, by almost always letting us hear the crackling of a phone searching for signal. We are turning into machines, says Schumann. I’m afraid we are.

This is an intriguing show whose characters will leave an invisible mark on you. There are many aspects to think about, especially our responsibility for our planet’s state.

Review by Sophie Tergeist

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Free seating | Price of Ticket: £18
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