London-based Australian playwright, Rita Kalnejais, presented her first production of ‘FIRST LOVE IS THE REVOLUTION’ at the Soho Theatre, London, in 2015. She has handed the play to Griffin Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, Lee Lewis, for its first Australian premiere.
Lewis has assembled a fabulous cast of six, four of whom play multiple characters. The other two actors play the star crossed lovers, ‘Rdeca’ (Sarah Meacham), and ‘Basti’ (Bardiya McKinnon), under highly unusual circumstances.
Kalnejais loves foxes and is fascinated how these wild animals wander unchecked around London. She says, “they have no natural enemies in the cities so they’re not scared – they haven’t been scared of people for generations.” She’s also read that “there are an estimated 7,000 foxes in the southern Sydney area…and they’ve already been responsible for wiping out 10 native species.”…”Dusk and dawn you’ll find yourself being watched, sometimes followed.”
It’s no surprise that Kalnejais has written a love story in the form of ‘Grimm’s fairytales and Walt Disney meet Romeo and Juliet’. She has done an excellent job of blending fantasy and reality.
The story opens in the play-den of the kit siblings; Rdeca, a young fox, ‘Gustina’ (Amy Hack), her slightly older sister and ‘Thoreau’ (Guy Simon), her slightly older brother. They are scared and fascinated by dawn and dusk skies. They are about to learn how to carry out their first hunt from their mum,‘Cochineal’ (Rebecca Massey), who has just returned from the horror of finding their dad run over whilst eating a kebab on the road. The kits have found ‘Gregor Mole’ (Matthew Whittet), whom they tease, except Rdeca, who feels sorry for mole. Mum instructs them in the fine points of pouncing, practicing on the mole and sending them out for their first kill. Cochineal is a devoted mum, sharing wisdom and affection but firm when needs be. Massey gives a powerful performance.
The dialogue is fast and humorous and continues to be throughout the play, thanks also to the sharp direction of Lewis. The set design (by Ella Butler) covers all areas; the den, the humans’ garden, the kitchen, chicken coup and Basti’s bedroom. Butler has covered the whole stage in fake grass which includes hills and a chair. The earthy cream fence serves the play well.
We meet the humans. 14-year-old Basti (Sebastian Cunningham) and his uncaring and vulgar, alpha male dad, Simon (Matthew Whittet). Simon is having an affair with his young, upstairs neighbour, Gemma (Amy Hack), while his wife has been put into psychiatric care. Basti wants to help his sad mum by making a fox fur for her so sets a crude trap, a block of cheese in the garden attached to stick, wire and rope. Rdeca falls into it, her foot tied up with rope. What Basti didn’t expect was this exotic creature would start talking to him. The pair become inseparable and the two families are not happy. As Kalnesjais says about first love – “There are no rules.” Meacham and McKinnon make a great team – focused and connected.
The actors work brilliantly together, Hack’s Gemma is tantalising and her cat very funny. Simon’s vicious, chained up dog and chicken protector, Rovis, is hilarious and the appearances of the three chickens delightful. Whittet’s two characters, mole and dad are vastly different and beautifully constructed.
Trent Suidgeest’s lighting design and David Bergman’s dramatic sound compositions add richness to the play.
‘FIRST LOVE IS THE REVOLUTION’ is fresh, full of surprises and optimistic.
It is playing at the Stables Theatre, Kings Cross, until the 14th December, 2019.