Chalk Farm, by AJ Taudevin and Kieran Hurley, investigates the London Riots of 2011 from the perspective of those closest to it.

Bearing in mind the subject matter, you could be forgiven for assuming that Chalk Farm might be a political play about the state of the world, but you would be wrong. While at times the characters consider the wider ramifications of the riots, never does the play try to preach or to push its message. It focuses on the human drama at the centre of the riots and, in doing so, makes us care.

Julia Taudevin and Thomas Dennis play a mother and son living in the Chalcots estate. Although they rarely talk directly to each other in the play – usually they narrate what is happening and how they are feeling – the relationship between them is real and palpable. Neither outshines the other: both have enough charisma, strength and presence to fill the theatre and it doesn't matter that there are no other actors.

When you first enter the space you are met by the striking image of fifteen static, spitting screens which, together with an unsettling techno soundtrack, create a hypnotic and slightly disturbing feeling that something isn't quite right. The screens and music remain important throughout the piece, though at times they seem a touch superfluous. When they work, they really work – building atmosphere and tension. The paper aeroplane flying over London and the eerie undeletable CCTV shot were moments of pure theatre gold.

The journeys that both characters take are equally intoxicating. Dennis as Jamie takes us through the action of the play: how easy it is for a bystander to be caught up in the mob mentality, the thrill of moment and the slow slide into chaos, all backed up by the simple human desire to make his mum smile again. Maggie (Taudevin) experiences the growing dread of not knowing whether her son was involved, caught in a struggle to decide between doing the right thing and doing what's best for her son whom she still considers a child.

You can't have a play about British society without a bit of politician-bashing, and Chalk Farm does this with enthusiasm, wit and originality. Some of the funniest moments come when a character shines a light on the absurdities of the powers-that-be, blaming the riots on one source or another. Jamie's opening monologue captures the feeling of it perfectly: the riots were about everything and nothing.

Chalk Farm is an exemplary example of economic theatre. There's no excess: no filler or sequence added just for the sake of it. Everything matters. The script is tight and the performances exact. You don't so much leave the theatre wanting more as knowing your time wasn't wasted.

The conclusion leaves enough questions for the audience to chew – not choke – on, and the ultimate fate of the characters is never made clear. What stands out is how differently the characters come to view the riots. While Jamie's friend Junior revels in the idea that they are making history, Jamie's retort reveals the pointlessness of the entire thing: "We're not making history, we're just having a laugh."

RADAR 2013, at Bush Theatre

Chalk Farm is a part of Bush Theatre's RADAR 2013 festival, which celebrates new writing. On the basis of this – a beautiful story, simply told – the future is bright. At the Bush Theatre.

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