Blue Sky @ Hampstead Theatre

Image by Robert Workman.

The Pentabus company, hailing from the depths of rural Shropshire, claims to dig ‘deep into the psyche of the English countryside…offering rural audiences work that is made especially for, and speaks directly to, them’. They may not be playing to their home audience at Hampstead Theatre, but their reception is nonetheless encouraging.

Playwright Clare Bayley is clearly not one to shy away from controversy. Her tale hits on a number of the hottest current headlines: political prisoners, extra judicial arrests, radical Islam and investigative journalism are all crammed into a running time of 120 minutes. The show investigates mysterious goings-on in the English countryside in the middle of the night. Secret landings at isolated airports and possible government conspiracies. The contrasting characters serve to highlight conflicting standpoints: we hear from an innocuous, plane-spotting, car repairman, his idealistic teenage daughter and a crusading journalist. It is short, sharp and punchy.

The acting carries this play with especially strong and charismatic performances from the two leads, Sarah Malin (Jane) and Jacob Krichefski (Ray). The scene changes are slick and dramatic, and the clever use of lighting adds to the atmosphere and makes the best use of this stage.

It’s a shame that some elements of this play feel a little clichéd: the storyline never delves deeper into the rationale or reasons behind the action but skims across the surface. Some elements, such as hints of Jane’s abusive childhood, make an appearance late in the play and aren’t quite carried through to their full conclusion. It may be a case of packing too much into such a brief running time, but we felt we could have been challenged with a little more depth.

Nevertheless, this is a good production and provides food for thought: we recommend a visit.

Blue Sky is playing at the Hampstead Theatre until 10 November, run time is approximately 1 hour 20 minutes with no interval. Tickets are £12 (£10).

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