thu 20/06/2024

It Just Stopped, Orange Tree Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

It Just Stopped, Orange Tree Theatre

It Just Stopped, Orange Tree Theatre

Drama about climate change and the future of humanity fails to capture the imagination

Joseph Kloska and Emma Pallant as Franklin and Beth in 'It Just Stopped'Robert Day

Would you be able to tell if the world had ended? For Beth and Franklin, the wannabe intellectuals at the heart of Stephen Sewell's play, it proves quite difficult to ascertain whether life as they know it has come to an end from their privileged life high in a luxury Melbourne apartment. Whether they are bickering about how the New Yorker has gone downhill or despairing about terrorism, they remain insulated from the world by their own self-absorption.

The stoppage of the title directly refers to the electricity, water, telephone line, mobile network and internet. The baser side of these characters is immediately exposed. Franklin frets that he won't be able to deliver his New York Review of Books cover story exonerating Wagner from all charges of anti-semitism and Beth is worried that she will be late for her job as a producer for a deeply offensive radio shock jock. It takes quite a while before they even consider that the event that has so inconvenienced them could have killed or injured people in the world below.

This production doesn't quite click  the debate feels too abstract

There are lovely touches of wry comedy in the interchanges between these two, even if some of their discussions about art and politics are strongly reminiscent of those had in student halls at 3am (Franklin's assertions about how art can't be "about anything" if it is to be truly great could be straight out of the mouth of a first-year undergraduate, and it gets tiresome). That said, the teenagers in the audience did roar with laughter when Beth suggested they take advantage of the power cut to "catch up on some reading".

John Bowler and Cate Debenham-Taylor as Bill and Pearl in "It Just Stopped"However, this play really goes off the boil when two brash Australians, Bill and Pearl (John Bowler and Cate Debenham-Taylor, pictured left), push their way into the apartment. Bill's menacingly cheery demeanour and eerie, stiff grin is the one bright spot in what quickly becomes a tedious farce. Long monologues about the nature of art and the metaphorical (or not?) destruction of humanity veer between the laughable and the merely dull. Even some potentially thrilling business where Pearl threatens to kill Franklin with a knitting needle is neutered by the fact that she is holding forth about the US's infant mortality rate at the same time.

The underlying subject here climate disaster and human selfishness  is a fascinating one. It can, and should, make for gripping drama, yet it doesn't quite click in this production. The debate feels too abstract. Where we should be teased towards an uncomfortable awareness about our destructive lifestyles, we are instead distracted by cheesy lighting effects and fake blood. Unfortunately, such effects can't mask the fact that this play is, at times, guilty of exactly the kind of pretentious myopia it seeks to skewer.

The underlying subject here – climate disaster and human selfishness – is a fascinating one


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Share this article


I saw the play on Saturday night. It is an excellent comedy, cleverly written and would appeal to the more intelligent audience. The play is well cast and the four actors play their parts without with a lot of humour. The theatre was completely packed and I'm sure this would be something to do with the excellent review it received in the Guardian. If you can still get a ticket it really is a must see!

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters