Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Quinn’

Lucy Kirkwood has taken to writing big, complex multi-layered, multi-issue plays. From Sino-American relations to a nuclear incident to particle physics. Think Tim Stoppard, but not so cold and glib, with personal stories for added empathy. I like them. A lot.

Mosquitoes revolves around two sisters – the brilliant Alice, an eminent scientist at CERN in Geneva, and Jenny, a bit of a basket case living in Luton, who seems to believe everything she reads on the internet. Despite the differences they are close, and come to each other’s rescue when needed. Their mum Karen lives with Jenny; she was an eminent scientist in her day too, but perhaps not much of a mother; she’s got an ice cold bite. Alice’s husband disappeared and she’s now in a relationship with Henri. Her troubled teenage son Luke is struggling with bullying at school.

Kirkwood weaves the personal story of these three generations with some mind-blowing science, taking us way beyond now to the possibilities of the distant future, using The Bosun, who seems to be the ghost of Alice’s former husband, as our guide. She writes really sharp dialogue and it’s often very funny, but it sometimes surprises you too, going down quite unpredictable and unexpected paths. I loved the density of the narrative and the meatiness of the dialogue. The personal story has lots of twists and revelations and is simply staged in the round, with a circular floor, a moving circular feature overhead and dramatic lighting and sound effects to convey the science. 

Jenny is a peach of a role which Olivia Coleman clearly relishes and completely inhabits. It’s harder for Olivia Williams to play less emotionally against this, but she does so well. Amanda Boxer is wonderful as mum Karen, seemingly devoid of emotion and fighting dementia, and Joseph Quinn, excellent in Wish List at the Royal Court earlier this year, is hugely impressive as angst ridden lost soul Luke. Rufus Norris’s staging is well paced and captivating, with idiosyncratic scene changes to boot.

This is a very mature play for someone in her early thirties and there’s clearly a lot more to come. I for one can’t wait.

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Once upon a time we made things in this country, in places called factories, on production lines, where people worked. We exported those jobs to places where labour rates were a lot cheaper. Then we got new factories called call centres, which enabled us to sell things to people more cheaply. When we started buying things online, warehouses joined the call centres as the new factories. At the same time we out-sourced welfare benefits, which became claimant production lines, inhuman, inflexible tick-box processes. This excellent new play juxtaposes both of these phenomena.

Tamsin looks after her younger brother Dean, who has OCD, a life changing condition which the authorities fail to understand. She’s just got a job as an agency temp in the packing department of a warehouse, working alongside Luke, who’s filling time before he continues his education. They are attracted to one another and there’s some charming wooing. At the warehouse it’s all about rules and productivity targets, a bit like those factories where they made things, but more sophisticatedly measured and rigid. The supervisor is empathetic but confined by the procedures. Dean & Tamsin’s unsuccessfully navigate the benefits system while Tamsin try’s to navigate the new world of work. Another play to make you feel guilty about the society we’ve become.

Katherine Soper’s impressive debut is a beautifully written piece, with well drawn characters. Everything about Matthew Xia’s production is sensitive to the material. The performances by Erin Doherty as Tamsin, Joseph Quinn as Dean, Shaquille Ali Yebuah as Luke and Aleksander Mikic as the supervisor are delicate and nuanced.

Great new writing at the Royal Court.

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