Theatre Review - This Much I Know

Esh Alladi in This Much I Know [The Other Richard]

LIKE Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘n’ Roll in the main house, American writer Jonathan Spector’s ambitious play, This Much I Know, engages on an intellectual level.

It opens in a lecture theatre – we are the students. An academic, Lukesh (Esh Alladi) begins a cognitive psychology session.

Using slides, Lukesh demonstrates how we try to make sense of things, how our minds work and how they sometimes trip us up. We can be drawn to dangerous or false ideas because of our inherent desire to make connections, even where there are none.

Lukesh learns this to his cost when he discovers that his wife, Natalya (Natalie Klamar), has disappeared on a trip to Russia leaving him an abrupt, enigmatic text message. Could she be walking out on him and their marriage?

Natalya claims to be researching her family history for the memoir she is writing. It transpires that her grandmother once knew Joseph Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva. Natalya is on a mission to find out the truth about their friendship.

Meanwhile, Lukesh has to oversee Harold (Oscar Adams) and his dissertation on HG Wells.

Harold holds troubling views inherited from his white nationalist father. We learn from a programme note that Spector’s character was inspired by Derek Black, whose father founded Stormfront – a nationalist white website. Gradually Harold’s studies help him to open his eyes and heart to new ways of seeing.

Spector convincingly interweaves these various strands, with the three actors slipping between several roles in Chelsea Walker’s deftly staged production. We also shift between times – one subplot involves Svetlana speaking at a press conference about defecting to the United States.

We’re sometimes left racing to keep up but it makes for provocative theatre and Spector keeps us guessing until the end.

until January 27

Originally published by Camden New Journal