Ovalhouse, London – until 24 March 2018
The spring season at Ovalhouse continues with a brief run of Jesse Fox’s This Restless State; a one-man show that spans from 1989 until 2052, produced by Fuel Theatre. The play looks at how you might find a sense of belonging and purpose in a world that’s shifting in front of your eyes, inspired by the shockwaves caused by 2016’s referendum, as well as changing personal circumstances.
The three strands to this story follow Margot in East Berlin in 1989, Jesse himself in the present day, and Galina in Rome in 2052. Margot is feeling trapped in her marriage, with her frail mother trying to survive long enough to see a grandchild born – but when the Berlin Wall falls, she begins to make plans for the future. First and foremost is a very important concert!
Fox, meanwhile, is trying to progress with his career but finds himself on the train back to his family home to reassess, little knowing that this part of his life is about to change too. And Galina, in the future, is confronted with a mass migration crisis and a life-changing referendum: the one-child policy. Her partner has a daughter from a previous relationship – will that life be enough for her if the vote is passed?
As the audience enters, the sounds of writer and performer Fox’s childhood are playing – after finding these 90s mixtapes he’s been feeling nostalgic, “thinking of the past because I’m trying to imagine a future”. It’s an incredibly relatable thing, particularly now. Many of us feel as if the rug has been pulled out from under us, as the world we have known all our lives changes for the worse and puts unexpected restrictions on our futures. What this play does brilliantly is take moments in time that have great political change, and show the knock-on effects at a personal level.
Fox is an instantly engaging performer; he has a natural flair for storytelling that draws the audience in from the very start, putting them at ease and settling them in for a fun and thought-provoking 55 minutes. The clever use of sound (Ella Wahlström) mixes things up and works on a more instinctive level, whether it’s the music triggering the same nostalgia in you or the sound effects building up a picture of each world. Each strand of the play has its own individual feel to it, from the sound (and method of amplification) to the style of lighting (Ben Pacey). You instantly know ‘when’ you are as it flicks from strand to strand.
There is a nice blend of moods within the three stories – on the face of it you’d be forgiven for thinking the subject matter was rather bleak, but amidst the heartbreak, rage and dilemma is hope. Different people will naturally be drawn to different moments (Jesse’s tirade against his seemingly helpless situation, and wanting to “stop feeling like a child”, spoke volumes to me and actually made me rather emotional), but there is definitely something there for everyone to relate to.
For less than an hour of theatre, it is remarkably effective. And perhaps the only place you’ll hear David Hasselhoff’s Looking for Freedom played quite so loud & proud!
My verdict? An extremely relatable piece of theatre that speaks for everyone on the brink of change – brilliantly conceived and performed by Jesse Fox.