There are few writers who can distil history and politics into personal relationships quite like Tony Kushner. He is the most inspirational of writers whose charting of history begins and ends with the human heart. A Bright Room Called Day, written around 1985, in the heat of the Reagan era but recalling the mixture of hope and despair that sounded the death knell of Germany’s Weimar Republic is a call to arms, a conscience pricker against apathy that couldn’t be more pertinent in our current fetid climate.
A play in praise of `moral exuberance’, in A Bright Room Called Day, Kushner asks us to be forever vigilant, forever questioning and sceptical. Projecting us back to 1930s Berlin, we see a group of young actors and a Russian born director `flirting’ with communism as the Party briefly gains popularity and seats.
All too quickly, the candle of human potential burns out and we see them confronting changing times in a variety of ways: moral and physical escape, collaboration and in the case of its leading protagonist, Agnes, initially the brightest spark in their firmament, crashing to earth – or rather, falling apart.
As always, it is the manner of Kushner’s writing and the characters so richly created that impresses. Surreal, poetic, prophetic, he mixes ‘30s Weimar with comment on America in the 1980s through Zillah, a young American activist, determined to make her protest through a constant letter writing barrage of the White House. Evil/The Devil doesn’t always have to come through the guise of Adolf, warns Zillah. It can come smiling.
There is so much to get your teeth into this play, shorter than Kushner’s `masterpiece’, Angels in America but no less galvanising. And Secret Heart’s production gives full and detailed colour to every nuance.
A collective, aiming to work as an ensemble and led by former RADA tutor, Seb Harcombe, his pitch perfect production brims with talent. Alana Ramsey’s crumbling Agnes, terrified to death by fear, Charlie Archer’s camp shallow Baz mirrored by Laura Hanna’s self regarding Paulinka are only the most memorable in a group clearly playing to each other’s strengths, as well as their own. Terrific.