BWW REVIEW: FIRST LOVE IS THE REVOLUTION Is An Adorable, Amusing And Absurd Coming Together Of Nature And Civilization.
Thursday 7th November 2019, 7pm, SBW Stables
Rita Kalnejais (Playwright) FIRST LOVE IS THE REVOLUTION is bought to life with Lee Lewis' (Director) delightful interpretation of a delightful bizarre love story. The protection of family bonds, the power of destiny and the boundaries of love are challenged in an absurdly twisted modern fairy tale of sorts.
The premise of Australian playwright Rita Kalnejais' work which premiered in London in 2015 is that young fox kit Rdeca (Sarah Meacham) is coming to the age where mum Cochineal (Rebecca Massey) wants her to learn to hunt and kill. Unfortunately what Cochineal and Rdeca's flea bitten siblings Gustina (Amy Hack) and Thoreau (Guy Simon) have failed to tell her is that when a hunter has lined up their target, for that usually brief moment before the kill, the two can communicate, allowing the prey to plead for mercy. Allowed out of the den for the first time without mum, Rdeca finds herself in a trap set by the 14 year old human Basti's yard and the laws of predator/prey communication still apply as it is now Rdeca who is now pleading for her life with the stunned Basti who opts to free her with the hope of friendship since he's a bit of a loner at school, picked on because he's small, and ignored at home while his father Simon (Matthew Whittet) seems more intent on flirting with the young neighbor Gemma (Amy Hack).
Designer Ella Butler has developed a wonderful space to represent both the wild setting of the foxes' den and the human spaces of Basti and Simon's garden and home. A turf covered hill dominates the SBW Stables corner stage and features a turf covered armchair and television box emerging from the hill side. An undisguised stove is also set into the slope while a kitchenette bench occupies the opposite end of the stage. A white paling fence borders the space and allows projections of the changing skies to reinforce the fact that Rdeca is out during the day, feeling the sun on her face for the first time in her life.
In keeping with Lee Lewis' direction of having the foxes appear more human than animal, Butler's costume design avoids any temptation to try to make them look foxy, instead opting for the same type of clothes one would expect humans of similar age to wear, from Gustina's preppy skirt and cardigan with hairclips to Thoreau's sweatpants and the younger Rdeca's red t-shirt and exercise shorts. Lewis keeps the foxes behavior relatively human, presenting the kits as typical teens but there are moments when she reinforces that these are still wild animals, from the amusing moment when Massey, as mother Cochineal disciplines the wayward Rdeca with a nip to Meacham's 'snout' to the way the foxes stand when bathed with Basti's flea wash. The other wild animal, Gregor Mole (Matthew Whittet) is also given a more human appearance, with no significant allusions to his species while the tame animals of oriental cat Smulan (Amy Hack), Alsatian guard dog Rovis (Guy Simon) and chickens Bailey, Quentin and Colourpatch (Rebecca Massey, Matthew Whittet and Amy Hack) are all given more animal traits in both their physicality and costuming.
This is a wonderfully presented story of friendship, family and first love. Kalnejais has injected some wonderful moments of absurdity, even beyond the concept of a boy falling in love with a fox, and Lewis ensures they are presented with the naturalness that makes them seem totally rational and plausible. There are moments that the line between animal and human are so blurred that you find yourself needing to yourself that one is a teenage boy and the other a fox.
A brilliantly presented heartwarming and hilarious modern tale of nature and civilization colliding in a most absurd but beautiful way. Drawing on the nostalgia of the childhood stories of anthropomorphized animals to present a grown up love story with a touch of gore (I was actually expecting more), FIRST LOVE IS THE REVOLUTION is a fabulous piece of escapist theatre that will have you leaving happy if not also a bit bewildered.
Photos: Brett Boardman