At just over 90 minutes, this is a theatrical spectacle and tapestry as ethereal and vital as it is strange and incomprehensible. Simon Stephens throws those elements such as the destruction of community, the isolation of individuals, the globalisation and sterilisation of culture, the power of money and capitalist dreams, the despair that comes from non-intervention, together with the characters and some of the music and plot points from Bizet’s Carmen, into a blender, creating a dystopian present-day landscape where pretty much anything can and does happen. The poetic nuances fly through the writing such that return visits to see the production again are almost compulsory.
Harmon writes vicious dialogue fearlessly and with potent froth. The characters are clearly defined by their speech and each seems real, accessible – possibly someone you might know. There are several real surprises along the way and not much ends up as it first seems. It is a sharp, clever piece of writing.
The acting is of the highest order. Every word, every pause, every gesture – all is precisely calibrated and thoughtfully designed to ensure maximum interest, a real involvement in the many disparate lives of these two intriguing characters. Jake Gyllenhaal proves to be entirely perfect as the ordinary bee-keeper, Roland. Ruth Wilson is very very funny, but also fragile and stern and unfair – whatever the situation requires, Wilson provides.