Hamlets young and old or have the Young Vic and Globe got it the wrong way around
Our Private Life round two but what happened to Colin?

The Heretic is so good I bought the album

Heretic3 Well, not quite but it did inspire a purchase. You see in going to the Royal Court on Friday night I discovered musical talent in the form Johnny Flynn who plays Ben in The Heretic. In one scene he sings and plays guitar and although good I didn't think for one minute he was a recording artist.

He's a good actor too but more of that in a bit. When I got home, I googled him and there he is, not just a myspace wannabe but a bona fide recording artist and so I bought his album on iTunes.

A4b386613794e4c7cd10e5b37246fd64_XL It's a shame you can't buy a recording of the song in the play. It's a love song to the daughter of Dr Diane Cassell played by the rather splendid Juliet Stevenson. The play isn't a love story as such, the scene is incidental, it's about *Shock!* *Horror!* climate change.

Normally such a topic would have me running in the opposite direction having been scarred by the NT's Earthquakes in London but this play isn't like that. Its not didactic or finger-wagging for a start.

Its central narrative is about a university professor, Dr Cassell, whose research in the Maldives appears to show sea levels aren't rising.

Presumably inspired by the climate change 'spin' email scandal of 2009 in essence the play is about science vs the politics of climate change.

Dr Cassell starts getting death threats and, adding to the political angle, is under pressure from faculty head Professor Kevin Maloney (James Fleet) not to publish her research because the university is cash-strapped and fighting to get funding from an insurance firm for whom global warming is good for business.

So where does Ben come in? Well he is a student of Dr Cassell's for whom being green is almost a religious-like pursuit.

"Muslims or Jews can't eat pork. He can't get on a fossil fuels mini-bus."

Dr Cassell convinces him to approach climate change with a science hat on rather than an emotional one sets him the task of replicating some recent global warming research.

The sub-plot is that Ben falls in love with Dr Cassell's anorexic daughter Phoebe (Lydia Wilson) with whom she has a difficult relationship resulting a constant verbal and sometimes physical sparring. 

Images It all sounds so serious and it is but the script is sharp and witty and there are plenty of laughs. Flynn initially doesn't convince as the Neil-the-hippy-esque bumbling, guitar playing, socially awkward Ben but ultimately provides a lot of laughs while still showing that he does have brains under it all.

Stevenson plays Dr Cassell as a strong, intelligent, perceptive, sharp-witted woman with an edge of vulnerability:

Ben: "Is that your best shot? To get my mind off this?"

Diane: "I'm not a therapist. I'm a fossil basher. You're lucky I'm not using a hammer."

*Potential plot spoilers* The only fly in the ointment is that it feels like the story peters out about half-way through the final act. The death-threat narrative thread looks like it is coming to some sort of sinister conclusion but doesn't.

After hanging the play predominantly on the climate change angle it feels as if the personal stories take over a little too much and the ending felt just a little cliched. But then I'm struggling to think of how I would have ended it more satisfactorily so I'm not going to judge too harshly.

The Heretic is the antidote to the poisonous 'green' themed plays that have been staged of late and well worth the ticket price. It wouldn't have got five out of five but loses a point for the ending taking it to four out of five.

On UpTheWestEnd.com it gets 3.7 out of five based on 6 reviews.

The Heretic is on at the Royal Court Jerwood Downstairs until March 19 and if you want to read a far more eloquently written review go over to OughtToBeClowns blog.

Pictures: Keith Pattison

And as a special treat here is one of Johnny Flynn's songs form the album A Larum, it's called Cold Bread:


Download 07 Cold Bread



I'm quite pleased with this one. It's not a direct link but it gives me the opportunity to name check a great actor who sadly shook off the mortal coil earlier this year, Pete Postlethwaite, and who in this instance is the connection. He worked with Mr W in Criminal Minds and Adrian Hood who plays  campus security guard Geoff Tordoff in The Heretic but was also in Brassed Off.