Between Two Waves is a gorgeous piece of theatre. I'm not going to say it doesn't have it flaws, because it certainly does, but overwhelmingly, it is the kind of theatre that makes you feel rather than think, the kind of theatre that bypasses your brain and gets you in the soul. It is artistic, evocative, and moving.
Between Two Waves is the story of Daniel Wells (performed by playwright Ian Meadows). He is a climate change scientist who is struggling to reconcile the apocalyptic knowledge he's acquired through his research with his real life - a girl called Fiona (Ashley Ricardo) and a baby he's not sure if he can bear to bring into the world. He is a Cassandra of sorts: doomed to prophesy the end of the world and doomed to never be listened to, and when the end of the world comes, it comes just as much - if not more - for him than it does for anywhere else. All he can do is try to recover fragments of what he might once have had.
It is a strikingly fatalistic piece of theatre. The script is peppered with symbols that usually signal destruction and rebirth (flood, for example) but the symbols are subverted and the resurrection aspect repeatedly undermined. Daniel is an unreliable narrator - it's unclear how much of this fatalism is actually real and how much is a product of his own descent into madness - but the nihilistic way Between Two Waves uses imagery is both highly evocative and ominous. How far can you go before there is no turning back? Is it possible - or even responsible - to have hope in a world that seems hopeless?
Some elements of the plot felt a little tacked on - the subplot about Daniel's sister, for example, could have been developed more fully and integrated better into the world of the show - but overall, Between Two Waves is quite a remarkable script. The non-linear picaresque structure is initially a little hard to come to terms with, but once you settle into the rhythm of the show, it works very well. The only element which felt a little out of place were the monologues given to Daniel. These were clearly supposed to advance the themes of the play (and tie it back to TS Eliot's Burnt Norton, a textual reference which appears several times) rather than the actual plot. It was far more compelling to see Daniel trying to live in the present than mulling on the past and the future, which is why I think they probably could have been cut down substantially without the play losing much.
As Daniel, Ian Meadows delivers a remarkable performance: wonderfully restrained and deeply touching (even if he probably doesn't exactly fit the bill of "nerdy science man"). It is the kind of character one can sympathise with rather than empathise with, which makes it all the more difficult to portray: Daniel's circumstances are hard to relate to, but the performance (and script) as given by Meadows ensure that his plight is felt deeply. While Meadows is certainly the star here - his character is on stage for the entire duration of the play - the rest of the ensemble certainly do not let him down. I particularly enjoyed the performance delivered by Ashley Ricardo as Fiona. I've seen her onstage a few times now and she, already a wonderful performer, improves every time. I hope to see more of her in 2013 and beyond.
In his last show as artistic director at Griffin Theatre Company, Sam Strong has delivered a production to be very proud of. It's a difficult script, but the Between Two Waves that Strong has created is powerful and moving. It also includes some rather spectacular technical affects that have to be seen to be believed. The climate change-related apocalypse at its core is timely, and the frustrations it contains surrounding both bureaucracy and romance are deeply relatable. It speaks to fears both on a global and personal level: how late is too late to change your ways? When everything is lost, what is worth recovering? Can you go back and open the door you never opened into the rose garden? It is an outstanding piece of theatre and one I wholeheartedly recommend. Go see it.
Griffin Theatre Company presents
Between Two Waves
Written by Ian Meadows
Dates: 5 October - 17 November, 2012
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross