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Three years on and the question of Brexit feels as much of a mysterious haze as ever, with no one certain what the results, good or bad, will be. This piece is undoubtedly the thought Thunder Road Theatre Co.’s have had for their new production, a loose adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Body Snatcher.
The story is set Britain 50 years after Brexit, where a fatal epidemic has broken out as scientists struggle to find a cure. A young medical student named Robert Fettes is asked to come to the ominous town of Inglenook in hopes that he will be able to reach the breakthrough they seek. Fortunately for him, fresh corpses seem to be mysteriously arriving at his laboratory…
If this all sounds rather dark and sombre, the play does manage to successfully balance the tone with a good dose of jokes, leading to a piece which often funnier than it is scary. The jokes were influential in getting the audience to engage with the piece, with large amounts of laughing following the gags. Thankfully, the audience also responded thoughtfully to the darker parts, with audible gasps and I heard a rather loud whisper of “she’s gonna die” from those sitting around me.
Despite the play featuring several characters, only four actors were tasked with performing the piece. Alex Moran stars as Fettes, the play’s Scottish 80s-rock-loving scientist lead, and Claire Burns stars as his Irish 70s-rock-loving songwriter wife, Rosie. The two of them are the beating heart of the play, with their well-written and well-acted chemistry being sweet, hilarious, and heartfelt, often all at the same time. Zach Lee and Elizabeth Hope star primarily as Fettes’ two lab assistants Toddy and Stanlow, but also play all the other inhabitants of the village. Both succeeded admirably, using voice and mannerisms to make all their roles feel like distinct people, but still, remain recognisable enough as the same two actors to give the village a disturbing feeling that everyone is suspicious.
The play uses only one set, consisting of some drab walls, and a door, which works for the scenes set in the old inn or the scientific laboratory, but I do feel that perhaps for the scenes of Fettes and Rosie at home it feels a bit unusual. However, the dialogue succeeds at painting an image of the location in the spectator’s mind, so I never felt confused as to where the characters were.
Sound is used a lot in the play, with 70s/80s rock, such as David Bowie or The Clash, played relating Fettes and Rosie, suggesting that they are perhaps trying to escape to a happier time before the epidemic broke out. Meanwhile, industrial dark-ambient pieces are used during the play’s more sinister moments, creating a sense of tension and dread.
The aforementioned Brexit allegories in the piece are relatively subtle, but upon further reflection, do manage to make their presence felt. Britain of the future feels dystopian and not the return to the glory days that many have promised. They imply the lack of EU regulations is partly to blame for the outbreak of the virus, and the inability to find a cure to stop it. The ambiguity of the play’s ending also suggests the idea of uncertainty for the future, unsure of whether any future developments will be negative or positive. Despite all this grimness, that Rosie and Fettes contrast with each other in terms of nationality, profession, and music taste yet still love each other totally, gives hope that even in the worst of times, humans can put aside their differences and turn to love.