This Beautiful Future
Jermyn Street Theatre
Reviewed – 20th August 2021
“There are two fine performances from both young actors with subtle nuances of character”
Five scenes run straight through without an interval in this moving new production of Rita Kalnejais’s 2017 play set in Nazi-occupied France towards the end of the Second World War. Directed by Charles Khalil and designed by Niall McKeever, this production is a two-hander with the two supporting roles of the first production consigned to voiceovers. The scene is set with a welcoming soundtrack of French chanson that segues into German song. And then a familiar tune – Somewhere Over the Rainbow – sung first in one language and then the other.
The opening and longest scene of the play is the most successful. We meet and get to know the two characters. Elodie (Katie Eldred) is a French girl angry with her mother, anti-church, a teenage rebel who flashes her knickers at the window rather than be subdued behind a blackout. Otto (Freddie Wise) is a German soldier, no more than a boy, his father’s medals on his chest and a gun in his hand. The young couple design to meet in the bedroom of an abandoned family home. Elodie expects Mrs Levi, the Jewish owner, to soon return; Otto knows that she will not. Elodie has brought along a picnic – some bread and cheese and a bottle of wine – to share on the edge of an unkempt bed in a bare room as the village outside burns.
Elodie displays her youthful innocence with bare legs and bobby socks, her hair held back in a white band, but her knowing looks and unspoken gestures hint at her desires and to where she will lead the young soldier. It is up to Otto to follow her direction. He has been led into the war by his father, led into Nazi doctrine by Hitler, and now led into bed by Elodie. As the passive partner in this relationship, we see there are other things going on unsaid. Otto is nervous, not only because of what he hopes to get from this night, but because his head is full of daytime horrors. His quick temper hints at the onset of PTSD.
Otto expects to invade England in the morning. Elodie expects to be liberated by the Americans. We hear the shocking nature of what does happen through two poignant monologues but clumsy movement across the illuminated floor tiles inhibits the powerful nature of the narrative.
There are two fine performances from both young actors with subtle nuances of character. Katie Eldred is in full control as Elodie’s desires drive the action forward. Freddie Wise clearly shows us the mixed emotions and confusion in the mind of Otto, despite some unclear diction.
The two final scenes are short flashbacks: how Elodie and Otto first meet, and the couple waking up after their one night together but there is little new to learn. The two actors well deserve their applause at the end and share the acclaim with two charming and delightful symbols of hope and rebirth.
Reviewed by Phillip Money
Photography by Steve Gregson
This Beautiful Future
Jermyn Street Theatre until 11th September
Previously reviewed by Phillip: