Review: RAIN AND ZOE SAVE THE WORLD, Jermyn Street Theatre

Jermyn Street Theatre presents a euphoric world premiere about climate change.

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MATILDA THE MUSICAL Announces West End Extension; See New Footage From the Show!Being seventeen is hard enough without having to shoulder a climate emergency. At school, Zoe (Mei Henri in her first stage appearance) is a paladin of justice and Rain (Jordan Benjamin) is the new boy who just moved to the neighbourhood. While protestors gather east to rally against the big corporation East Coast Energy Solutions, the girl convinces Rain to set out on a cross-country trip from Washington State to the east coast to find her mother and save the world in the same breath. Crystal Skillman's play is a dreamer's guide to heroic activism. It's a piece with good intent, euphoric in its stagecraft but unconvincing in its story.

Dipping in and out of her personal experience with her own activist family, Skillman sheds a light on the environmental disasters that keep taunting our existence on Earth. The writer makes sure the audience is up to speed with every side of the issues presented by having Zoe setting the rules of the game in a dead-on conversation with her travel buddy. She is remarkably outspoken and opinionated, and Rain can't help but go along with it.

While Rain and Zoe Save The World is exceptionally specific in its language and in Zoe's enthusiastic resolve, the scenes keep taking oneiric turns and improbable twists. She talks to the moon and keeps seeing her valiant mum as they ride, while he has full-blown conversations with his dead father, who appears to him clad in a leather jacket and aviator glasses to impart his wisdom.

Her positive, rhapsodic (yet slightly dictatorial) approach to the cause only heightens when met with his cautious attitude, which comes from an underprivileged background. With a house his mother can only afford due to his father's life insurance, his experience is suggested to have been strikingly different from Zoe's - whose dad trusts her blindly but grew up motherless. We aren't given extensive details, but they both have demons that come out to haunt them during their expedition.

They howl at the moon, singing songs on her guitar (which must shrink to fit into their backpacks or appear at will, as they never seem to lug it around) accompanied by a thrilling rock score composed by Bobby Cronin. They blast "Teenagers" by My Chemical Romance (whose chorus presents a truth universally acknowledged: "teenagers scare the living shit out of me") during a bar fight with a pair of climate change deniers after becoming "the faces of violent extremism". They even tickle a frog on the nose near a contaminated pond (I can't even start to explain why or how weird of a moment it is...).

The main duo is compelling in their portrayal, and the show makes for a great debut for Henri. Hersh Ellis directs with delightful inventiveness; Richard Holt and Salma Shaw act not only as the older people in Zoe and Rain's lives, but also become part of the mise en scène. In a swift, imaginative move, they turn into Rain's motorcycle on the revolving stage (a surprising feat for Jermyn Street!), bobbing up and down with imaginary motion. The production keeps being visually impressive.

Astro turf (which might as well need watering for how real it looks!) dresses the boards while pipes line the black back walls. Zoë Hurwitz's design gives an industrial, modern look to the action while Pablo Fernandez Baz and Elizabeth Mak curate the lighting and the projections, respectively. Strobes and neon coexist with arresting graphics and videos, at times turning the space into a video-game.

Ultimately, Rain and Zoe Save The World succeeds in being a cute story about teenage dedication to a cause (and, to an extent, of young love too). However, it paints a rather trivial picture of activism and of what it takes to make a lasting difference, other than being too rushed in its character development. It has a few far-fetched transitions that come with their own plot holes and lack of explanation, but it can be a lovely introduction for the younger generations. It's visually beautiful and its politics are sharp, but it ends up being a bit superficial.

Rain and Zoe Save The World runs at Jermyn Street Theatre until 12 March.


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From This Author - Cindy Marcolina

Italian export. Member of the Critics' Circle (Drama). Also a script reader and huge supporter of new work. Twitter: @Cindy_Marcolina... (read more about this author)



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