A week is a long time in London, but with the range of art that is on offer, it’s plenty of time to have a good nose around.
This week I’ve had the pleasure of attending four theatrical productions, ranging from a spoken word play crafted in the freshly burnt embers of Ferguson, to a heart-wrenching tale of children seemingly abandoned after the Second World War.
Life is what you make of it, but I’m lazy and like others to make it for me. So here is a rundown of my experiences of letting other people take over my mind in this last week.
There’s No Place Like, written and staring Lilac Yosiphon, is a tour de force of romantic and political drama wrapped around the lives of two people who meet by chance when one is working in a bar, and the other is seeking solace at the bottom of a bottle.
This chance encounter leads one to success, and the other misery. Stalked by fear of deportation Hannah, a singing teacher turned bar maid, takes on the bittersweet role of counselor and confidant to Jordan, who is reeling from the loss of his job and his mother.
This allegoric tale shows compassion in the face of bureaucracy, and Yosiphon as Hannah, and Sam Elwin as Jordan, captivate and have you beating the drum of hope, desperate to launch them to emotional and romantic success.
Yosiphon wrote and performed this play in her second language. Artistry like that is something that if we allow to be lost from our stages will be a true sadness. For all of our wisdom and imagination, being at the heart of another’s shared experience is something tremendous.
Althea Theatre who put on this production at The Arts Theatre in the West End are ones to watch. This troupe of performers and writers has a number of productions coming up so check out their website for more details.
Leave Hitler to Me Lad, also at The Arts Theatre, is the story of three young children who are growing up in a children’s home in the aftermath of World War Two.
This story, based on real life stories and told partly in musical form, is bulging with heart wrenching scenes where the three young leads perform with skill and confidence that should have taken more than their few years on this earth craft.
The three young actors are supported by four adult actors who sublimely control the stage and bring the best out of their young co-stars.
Duckegg Theatre Company, who are behind the show, developed the play in their home
region of North Lincolnshire. It is a thoroughly regional production that seemed comfortably, indeed thriving, on the West End stage. It’s instantly relatable to anyone who has ever lived
away from home, and because of this charm I doubt it’s the last time Duckegg will be asked to visit the big smoke.
Leave Hitler To Me Lad is running until 18 October at The Arts Theatre.
Simon Mole’s poetical adventure play No More Worries has just finished its successful at The Albany Theatre in Deptford. I caught the first show in the run, and after seeing Simon’s first scratch of this production many moons ago, I was suitably impressed with how he’d developed the show after months of touring it throughout England.
The play revolves around Kieran, and Kieran is lost. Nothing is as it was meant to be, loss has heaped a heavy load on his door, and he needs a way out.
Paul, armed with his camper van Olive and a collection of old postcards, offers him an escape. Their journey is hardly the rip-roaring adventure Kieran is looking for, but as it goes on he learns to look further than the end of his nose and begins to open his eyes to what really matters.
Simon Mole is one of the eminent storytellers of our time. His words bounce and entrap all who hear them, but that’s where hard work, dedication to your craft, and a seemingly infinite pool of skill to draw from, get you I suppose.
After Nyne spoke to Simon recently about No More Worries, poetry, and much more.
Octagon, currently running at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston, is the brainchild of American writer and political activist Kristiana Rae Colón.
The play centres on a group of slam poets who are looking for a fourth member to join them in performing at the national slam poetry championships.
Performed in Dalston, which for all of its current trendiness is in many places a deprived area of London, and focussing on issues that largely don’t effect Britain in the same way that they do America, you feel as you’re watching that this play is important.
It should not be considered trendy or niche to consider, participate in, and ultimately enjoy, theatre that talks about the challenges our fellow human beings face. The cast are forceful and mighty in their delivery of the superb script, and the direction is simply the best use of a theatre space that I have seen.
Octagon attracted the most diverse audience that I have seen in a long time, and this is only good for theatre. For the many to say that the few have a voice is redundant act if we ignore what they say.
The play is a challenging watch because it grabs you by the throat, palms on the windpipe fingers and thumb around the side, suffocates you so that the only oxygen available to you is what is given out from the stage. It is uncomfortable at times because it’s true: sometimes we just don’t care enough about others to be there for them.
Octagon is the first real theatrical backlash to hit British shores in response to the recent troubles faced by black communities across America, and while I’m sure it won’t be the last, it is probably going to be one of the best.
Octagon runs until 17 October at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston.
Theatre can only continue to thrive if you go and see it. So invest in something, buy a ticket, and lose yourself for a few hours in someone else’s world.
You won’t regret it.