Monday, 15 October 2018

Dark, amazing, and the history buoys...

NOT everyone enjoys history, but they would if Reading Rep taught it.

NOT everyone enjoys history, but they would if Reading Rep taught it.

Their co—production with the Watermill of

A Little History of the World
hydrates those dry textbooks and brings them gloriously alive.

The play is an adaptation of an Austrian work dating from 1936 but absolutely relevant today. It charts our development from before the Big Bang — or whatever is the current theory — through to the First World War.

But that scarcely does this powerhouse of a production justice. There is no point in the piece when we are not completely engaged and in the moment.

We are taken skilfully through the evolution of Neanderthal man and his achievements — how many of us realise it was these apparently primitive and dim ancestors who found fire and invented cooking, animal husbandry and elementary farming?

It’s a big story to cram into a few hundred words — it’s tough enough trying to get four billion years into 90 minutes as this company did.

But we touch on the development of reading, commerce, war, art, ideas, more war, more war again, chivalry, the Renaissance, witchhunts, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and finally more destruction through war.

The story is played out against occasional references to the rise of Nazism with back references to Roman conquests and the Crusades to show that cruelty is nothing new.

The narrative is carried forward good—naturedly with a spirited and talented cast who give us not only the facts of history but have a cute little romance going on among themselves as well.

It is by turns amazing, dark, informative, joyful, playful, desperate and wonderful. If history lessons were like this then the nation’s obsession with doing media studies would fade to nothing.

Key moments are dramatised with humour or pathos, sometimes both — with a final devastating balletic moving tableau set to Mozart’s


Top production and acting credits to director Paul Stacey and the cast of Alasdair Buchan, Jess Mabel Jones and Richard Ede, who keep the pace moving along without it ever seeming rushed.

It’s at the Watermill until tomorrow night (Saturday, July 25) but the good news is that it moves to its home ground, The Studio at Reading College, a week later for a three—week run.

Just see it if you can: this is not the dull history of kings, queens and dates, this is something very special.

Review: Mike Rowbottom

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