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BWW Review: WALDEN, Harold Pinter Theatre

Walden at Harold Pinter Theatre until 12 June

BWW Review: WALDEN, Harold Pinter Theatre

BWW Review: WALDEN, Harold Pinter Theatre To use any other word than "crisis" to describe what is happening with today's climate is ridiculous. Temperatures rise, natural resources dwindle and human beings waste more than ever. Is our planet saveable? Can we heal mother earth, or is it better to admit defeat and divert all resources into finding another place to build a sustainable ecosystem? This is the main question grappled with in American writer Amy Berryman's Walden, which kicks off an enterprising season of new writing in the commercial West End courtesy the producer Sonia Friedman.

Honing in on a relationship between twin sisters, the play is set in a remote area bordering Canada. The remoteness is the land of the "Earth Advocates", a group of people of all ages, genders and races who believe that it is still possible to live on this planet. They're proving this concept too - wildlife is returning, fruit and veg bloom, and the air is breathable without a mask. But is this just a fantasy that will eventually end? With the entrance of innovative superhero astronaut Cassie, played by Lydia Wilson, the way of nomadic life is quickly challenged.

Caught between two worlds, Gemma Arterton's Stella - Cassie's twin - is apparently one of the best minds NASA ever had. She is the one that designed Walden, the space station on Mars that will allow human life to flourish. Originally just a pipe dream, it's soon to become a reality, with her twin sister leading the mission. This causes conflict - Cassie doesn't want to go, she never has really wanted to be a space explorer and has only ever followed Stella. But she isn't invited and didn't pass the trials, so a choice has to be made.

Originally slow off the mark, after 30 minutes the piece does turn into a turbulent and engaging watch. However, some of Rickson's choices feel too performative; there's unnecessary over the top thrills to the action which feel more at place in a Shakespeare or Restoration piece. The heightened performances lose authenticity at times, and the sluggish pacing can leave you twitchy, which is a shame because there are some really exciting moments on view. Some of Berryman's lines fully hit home, and when the struggles the characters are facing are allowed to exist, the result is thrilling. (Fehinti Balogun completes the cast as the Arterton character's fiance.)

But some moments feel obvious and lacking in imagination, and despite brilliant performances from the trio (some dodgy American accents aside) the play never reaches its full potential. Still, Walden provides a solid 100 minutes of drama that audiences will most likely enjoy.

Walden at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 12 June 2021

Photo courtesy of Sonia Friedman Productions

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