First Love Is the Revolution at Soho TheatreCultureTheatre
Dusting off a winning formula, First Love is the Revolution uses comedy to tackle grand narratives that are relevant to the life and times of its audience. Perhaps more pertinently than ever, it explores the fear of The Other and the absurdity of the self-erected barriers we dare not violate.
Rdeca, a young fox, and Basti, a 14 year-old boy, are astonished to discover that they speak the same language. The world is horrified by their love. “You don’t belong here; you’ve been tamed,” Rdeca’s mother tells her when she attempts to return to their den. Rita Kalnejais’ script celebrates love conquering adversity and personal freedom in the face of institution. More topically, it points out that the ludicrousness of a fox and a boy not being allowed to play together is no different to that of humans fighting over land or religion. Throughout there’s mention of “destiny”: an inevitability to the way things are. Is destiny no more than the walled paths we’ve created for ourselves?
There’s a substantial helping of silly humour in Kalnejais’ play. The most laugh-inducing scene involves a guard dog played as a dim and vicious bruiser and two hens presented as happy old ladies collecting grass seed and nattering inanely.
Set and costume designer Anthony Lamble’s changing sky is the dominant feature of the set. Starting out as the acrid turquoise of a smog saturated sunrise, it switches hue to punctuate the mood of each scene, flaring purple during a violent instant and providing a pink and crimson backdrop to a first kiss.
Emily Burnett’s performance as Rdeca, which is engaging and very physical, is all the more impressive for being her professional debut. James Tarpey also makes his debut as he plays the part of Basti with perfectly understated earnestness. A beautiful moment between them sees them howling at the moon, Rdeca with breathless elation, Basti in hesitant emulation. The supporting cast is wonderful without exception, taking on comic caricatures as well as pathetic roles.
In the end, this is a play about unity and hope, making it the perfect headliner for Soho Theatre’s “Love Against the Odds” autumn season.
First Love is the Revolution is on at Soho Theatre from 22nd October until 21st November 2015, for further information or to book visit here.
Listen to playwright Rita Kalnejais discuss her play First Love is the Revolution here: