The Royal Court is fast becoming my favourite London theatre. The productions here seem to have a style that is strangely magnetic. Conveniently located next door to Sloane Square tube station, it couldn't be easier. I went last weekend to see the Saturday matinee of ‘The Heretic’, the much talked about play by Richard Bean. I purchased £8 ‘under 26’ balcony tickets from the few remaining the day before, snatching an absolute bargain.
When we arrived on the grey afternoon the box office was chaos, with several poor stewards desperately trying to deal with an epic ticket error – many of the seats bought on ‘Last Minute’ had been booked twice, making double the amount of punters to seats. Luckily I booked my tickets on the theatre website so waltzed right through the angry crowds to the busy bar area.
The Heretic deals with the topic of climate change, much like the National’s Greenland, and touches on many of the issues thrashed out in ‘Earthquakes of London’. But unlike the other plays, The Heretic has a more optimistic feel due to the female protagonistic, Dr Diane Cassell (Juliet Stevenson). I enjoyed seeing a play on this delicate subject that argues both sides of the debate convincingly rather than a depressing doom and gloom piece about the inevitable and imminent bitter end of our planet.
Dr Cassell is a leading Earth Sciences lecturer at a Yorkshire University, researching rising sea levels in the Maldives. She is a climate change sceptic preaching to those who will listen about her conclusive results that the sea level is not rising. Her listener turns out to be a lonely but passionate 19 year old student Ben, he admires her studies but is especially interested in her anorexic, manic Greenpeace-obsessed daughter, Phoebe. Cassell’s views inevitably land her in trouble, with death threats and the loss of her job thanks to adversarial colleague and ex-lover, Professor Kevin Maloney.
I found the play thoroughly entertaining though the focus seems to disappear in the second half. Stevenson as the heroine is firmly convincing throughout, commanding the stage with a poignant realism. James Fleet brings another dimension to the cast as Faculty leader Maloney. I felt completely at ease watching him and he makes a serious subject gut-achingly funny.
I admired Johnny Flynn from afar at Hop Farm Festival last summer where he sang with his talented band. He has a delicate yet rich voice, and is a fantastic multi instrumentalist, little did I know he could act so spectacularly too. The young droopy haired lad speaks almost entirely in an upbeat rap style, his crafty innuendo is hysterical. He captures the awkward demeanour of his character perfectly, like the part had been written for him.
The Heretic is on at the Royal Court until 19th March. A clever and witty play, I absolutely loved it.