Where and when: Etcetera Theatre, 28th at 9pm, 30th and 31st October at 7pm
What it’s all about… Presented by Blue Glass Theatre, This Is It is non-gendered and non-aged, meaning that this play will be able to have many and varied lives. Focusing on identity and where we hinge our identity in a world shifting under our feet, change is all around us.
This Is It is a dark comedy set at the end of the world. Three have survived this far…
You’ll like it if… you like Hot Fuzz, Black Summer, Noises Off!
You should see it because… it’s dark and funny and talks about how we communicate with each other. This Is It asks you to look at identity and how we view ourselves and what would happen if the world turned upside down. Annnddd it’s funny!
Anything else we should know…: It’s 60 minutes of sharp comedy and some scary bits too!
Consisting of three short interlinking plays set in 2019 and a dystopian near future, Jayne Woodhouse’s Classified offers a chilling but not wholly unrecognisable glimpse of a Britain where social class has become our single defining characteristic.
In Choices Leanne (Kayley Rainton), a new mother, is interviewed by an official from the “Department of Life Choice Options” (David House), who knows everything about her living situation and employment history, and uses that knowledge to question her ability to raise her child. 60 years later, in Classified, a couple (Neil Gardner and Rosannah Lenaghan) argue over her decision to stop and help a “class Z” homeless man: a moment of compassion that could have an impact on their own class ranking – or worse. And finally in The Watchers, Sarah (Rainton) looks back on her mother’s decade of non-violent resistance to the system, and explains why she’s now chosen to respond in a different way.
The trio of plays is simply staged by director Calum Robshaw, but with universally strong writing and performances, the show nonetheless succeeds in making its point very effectively. Though each story is only 20 minutes long, the audience quickly becomes invested in the characters and what happens to them – perhaps because the world they live in and the attitudes within it, though extreme, are not entirely unfeasible. I’m sure, for instance, that while DOLCO isn’t (yet) a thing, the kind of interrogation to which eighteen-year-old Leanne is subjected three days after giving birth almost certainly does take place. Similarly, unwillingness to help those less fortunate because of the risk it might reflect badly on ourselves is taken to exaggerated lengths in the second play – but that attitude already exists in our current social and political climate. It’s easy to see how these stories could become reality, and by more than once bringing the audience into the action, the play shows us too how we could be complicit in making it happen.
The final play is perhaps the most challenging, because it asks us to consider how we should respond to a corrupt and heartless system of government that weaponises social status against its own people. There’s never any doubt that something needs to be done – but is meeting violence with violence really the answer, even when all other arguments seem to have failed?
Throughout the show, the characters are forced to make choices – sometimes with the audience’s help, other times alone. In some cases, there’s a clear right and wrong; in others, it’s not so black and white. The impact of each choice is then felt throughout the rest of the play, demonstrating how the decisions we make every day can resonate and affect not just our own lives but those of people around us. Cleverly written and deeply unsettling, this trio of stories sends its audience home reflecting on both the possible future we’ve just seen, and on our own actions and attitudes in the here and now. Highly recommended for a thought-provoking evening.
The final performance of Classified is at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre tonight (12th October).
In the week that Extinction Rebellion protests kicked off across the globe, and a lost whale tragically died after being struck by a ship in the Thames, So It Goes’ modern, multimedia production of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is both intentionally and accidentally topical. The story of Captain Ahab and his obsessive quest to find the monstrous white whale that took his leg comes vividly to life at the hands of a five-strong cast, strongly supported by the inventive use of video, light and sound effects. Oh, and not forgetting Alex Chard’s original sea shanties about the various perils and pitfalls of 21st century life.
Douglas Baker’s significantly abridged adaptation of the 500-page novel follows the hunt for Moby Dick as Ishmael (Ben Howarth), a comically naive young man with a hankering to go to sea, sets out with new acquaintance Queequeg (Stephen Erhirhi) on board the whaling vessel Pequod. Shrugging off the warnings of chief mate Starbuck (Lucianne Regan) that his search will end badly for them all, Captain Ahab (Charlie Tantam) insists on pursuing his prey to the ends of the earth, with predictably disastrous results.
The play takes as its focus a line from the novel, which rings as depressingly true now as it did in 1851: “man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke”. Looking back on his experience aboard the Pequod, an older, wiser and far more cynical Ishmael (Rob Peacock) draws parallels between the self-destructive whale hunt and the many ways in which our planet continues to pay the price for humanity’s greed and thoughtlessness.
It’s hard to imagine how both a ship and a whale could realistically fit inside any theatre, and particularly one as small as the Brockley Jack – but this production achieves both with surprising success. The use of video projection is inspired and works extremely well, in particular during the surprisingly entertaining rowing boat sequence set to the immortal soundtrack of Europe’s The Final Countdown (though arguably this loses a little of its appeal after the third outing). Ahab’s dramatic struggle with Moby Dick is captured in a whirl of light, colour and movement, building to a haunting final scene that brings fact and fiction, and past and present, crashing together.
The multimedia aspect of the show means that the cast have to interact not only with each other but also with whatever’s happening on the screen. This they do with great flair and conviction, dodging ocean spray, holding intense consultations with the captains of other nearby vessels, and – most memorably – scaling the suspended corpse of a huge sperm whale. Though we’re always aware we’re looking at images, they’re incorporated so well into the live action of the play that they never feel out of place.
Don’t be put off by the daunting length of Wikipedia’s plot synopsis (yes, I looked it up); this enjoyable production is a short, sharp adaptation of Melville’s story, with a powerful and very relevant message lying in wait at the climax. It’s by turns dramatic and funny and heartbreakingly sad, and at this particular moment in our political and ecological history, it’s telling a story we all need to be listening to.
Moby Dick is at the Brockley Jack Theatre until 26th October.
Where and when: Pleasance Islington, October 11-13, 8pm
What it’s all about… Murder on the Dancefloor is a black comedy about dysfunctional families and the housing crisis which explores themes of friendship, family and isolation in relation to wider socio-political narratives; namely the ruthless job market, ever-rising house prices and the drive for financial security.
It’s fast-paced, explosive, award-winning physical theatre that unravels at breakneck pace with a totally absurd and farcical ending!
You’ll like it if… this show is for anyone with a dark sense of humour or who enjoys playful, devised physical theatre. The play resonates with anyone who feels that the reality of owning a home is impossible, a feeling most London-born youngsters can relate to!
You should see it because… Spies Like Us have just got back from a smash hit Edinburgh run where the show was well-received by critics receiving an array of 5* and 4* reviews. This might be the last time we perform Murder On The Dancefloor for a while so catch it while you can!
“Physical Theatre at its high-octane best” **** Edinburgh Festivals Magazine
Anything else we should know…: Spies Like Us are one of New Diorama Theatre’s Graduate Emerging Companies 19-20.