One morning, Kat gets up early, leaves her husband and young daughter behind, and boards a train to London, resolved to a drastic act. She is on her way to Parliament Square, where she will tip a can of petrol over herself and set herself alight, hoping to send a message – something needs to change.
(photos: The Other Richard)
Even though the play’s run at the Bush has finished, in the interest of not completely spoiling it, I won’t detail the aftermath of Kat’s decision – I will only say that it is touching, captivating and unpredictable. As the consequences of her actions spiral and the years pass, the audience realises that the all the tension leading up to that fateful moment in Parliament Square was just the beginning.
The production is imaginatively and highly effectively directed by Jude Christian, who previously directed another fascinating mother-daughter relationship in Bodies at the Royal Court. Situations difficult to portray, such as the passing of time or the burning of a body, are brought to life through excellent lighting and sound design, as well as tightly choreographed scene changes and overlappings of text. Design and direction are utterly absorbing overall, and the minimal set allows the committed performances of the ensemble cast, led by an impressively believable Esther Smith as Kat, to shine. Lois Chimimba, always a strong presence, is full of youthful energy as both the voice in Kat’s head and later, her now-teenage daughter Jo.
Parliament Square is affecting and thought-provoking, and covers an impressive amount of ground in its slim hour and twenty minutes – I’d barely finished my pint by the end! Many questions are thrown to the audience member – Was Kat right to do what she did? Would I ever be brave enough to do such a thing? Is it possible for us to affect change in an unforgiving and hopeless-seeming world? The play’s flaws, such as the vagueness of Kat’s dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and the inevitably unsatisfying ending, were forgotten by myself and my companion once our wide-eyed, fervent post-show discussion began.
Parliament Square played at Bush Theatre until 6th January 2017. For more information, click here.