I'm a huge fan of Simon Stephens but I'm not a huge fan of this particular piece of work. His plays can be poetic and lyrical but in Nuclear War he's forged into new territory, collaborating with movement director Imogen Knight for a piece in which the dialogue is interpreted by movement. The result is a 45 minute piece of abstract and odd ideas and abstract and odd dialogue around a woman venturing outside her home.
Watching it was the mental equivalent of chasing the tail of a kite as it swoops through the air, desperately trying to grasp some meaning or coherence or understanding or even just feel something about what was going on in front of me. It's described on the Royal Court website as a 'series of suggestions on desire, death and time' but I'm not sure which of those three, eating oranges through a pair of tights would actually fall under.
The Guardian's two star review online has a handful of comments one of which says: "Film and TV are generally expected to have a plot. Theatre gets a free pass. Even as someone who loves theatre, I've never understood why." And I must admit that I agree. I don't want to be spoon fed - some TV and film is terrible for 'Basil Exposition' - and I'm all for metaphor and symbolism, being challenged and interpretation but I do want a little bit of something, a piece of tail to grasp.
Recently I saw Nina Raine's new play Consent at the National Theatre and to put it simply, it was an interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking story really well told and its been a while since a new piece of theatre successfully ticked all those boxes. It reminded me of why I go to the theatre and what I enjoy about theatre. Nuclear War made me think about what I could have been doing instead. It left me unmoved and grateful it was only 45 minutes long. I'm giving it one star.