Karagula (Styx)

This new Philip Ridley play takes place in an ambulance depot in Tottenham

Philip Ridley is the king of very human, close-to-the-bone dystopias. In 2015's Radiant Vermin he has a couple murder their way to a perfect home, in 2005's Mercury Fur London has been taken over by gangs and brutal torture is on the agenda, in Piranha Heights absent fathers and fucked up children take centre stage. They are all portraits of our world gone very wrong.

In his brand new play Karagula, being given its world premiere by company Pigdog, he takes that premise but then extends it to epic proportions. Karagula is a history of a world over what seems like thousands of years, where revolt continues in a cyclical way. Societies change, usurp one another and the world distorts beyond recognition.

Karagula begins in a place called Mareka – a thinly veiled version of 50s America – where everything is tinged sickly pink and everyone drinks milkshakes. Here, each year the prom king and queen are shot by an assassin, who is then hunted down by the rest of society and brutally murdered. When one young couple manage to escape the bizarre tradition, it sets in motion an overthrow which never really ends. Through the course of the play we meet people who pray to bicycle wheels, those who bow to a strange sickly being with big wolves and sentient humans who wear white and communicate through telepathy.

There are echoes here of the likes of the maddening play Mr Burns in the way that myths and gods are created from low culture and the everyday. The sci-fi references are many – including a great one of Flash Gordon – and it would be very hard to follow, if Ridley wasn't an excellent writer. The plot jumps around in time and space but Ridley carefully makes sure the light bulb moments that connect each society, are never rushed past.

Karagula is an astoundingly audacious attempt to stage a science fiction dystopian world on stage that doesn't quite work. It fits a lot into its almost three hours running time. A little too much, in fact. The second half is baggy, and one scene in particular – a meltdown moment in a bunker where everyone gets very shouty – is unnecessary. Though the piece is coherent, it is also sprawling. It feels more like a promising film, than a finished play.

Max Barton's production deals with the jumping plot very well. The audience sit either side of the action in an old ambulance depot in Tottenham Hale. Smart lighting from Ric Mountjoy creates each world very well and the costume from Jethro Cooke and designs from Shawn Soh are superb. Clearly done on a shoestring, they are evocative, weird and absolutely right for this play. The cast are also very good, especially Lanre Malaolu who plays a terrifying power hungry high school kid who takes over, and Obi Abili who plays his deputy and several other characters is excellent.

It's not a slick, perfect night of theatre, but as with all Ridley plays, Karagula is haunting. It is a rich and powerful story of terrible wars, ridiculous fanatics, and broken worlds.

Karagula runs at Styx in Tottenham Hale until 9 July.