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Posts Tagged ‘Guy Hoare’

Just when you thought the verbatim theatre phase might have passed, the Almeida makes its first foray into the genre. They are lucky to have writer Alecky Blythe, who has been a leader in this field. She pioneered the technique of playing the interview subjects’ words into actors ears as they recreate them over 10 years ago. In London Road, she had the interviews set to music. Here, she uses a community chorus (in the Greek sense, rather than the vocal sense) very effectively. Director Joe Hill-Gibbins takes a fresh approach to staging too, avoiding the pitfall of a lot of static talking heads, and designer Ian McNeil has created Almeida-in-the-round, which effectively blurs the line between audience and performers / chorus in another original approach.

The 2011 riots are a big issue and Blythe has chosen to focus on the effect on, and the reaction of, the local community, with the story of how people rallied around shopkeeper Siva at its core. It’s good at presenting the motivations of those involved in this, and another campaign in defence of young people, but that does mean we skirt over the causes, reasons and motivation of others, though the excellent programme helps present the bigger picture. This focus also gives the piece a surprisingly light touch, though I did think it resulted in sending up some of the interviewees, particularly the middle class do-gooders – though in all fairness this included Blythe who plays herself! Though she chose the final interview well, its staging provided too abrupt an ending.

In addition to an excellent ensemble of twelve actors playing multiple roles, the chorus of 31 volunteers from the local community animate the piece and contribute a lot to its effectiveness. They were exceptionally well integrated and it was sometimes hard to differentiate between the professionals and the volunteers. The audience on two levels closely surround a relatively small space, which most of the time represents a meeting space for the community leaders and campaigners. Multi -level platforms and four entrances ensure the whole theatre becomes the playing space; even the main entrance and upstairs windows play their part. Guy Hoare’s lighting moves us between locations and Paul Arditti’s sound design connects us with off-stage events.

There is a limit to what you can achieve in 90 minutes, and the three years that have passed since these events means we lose immediacy, but it’s a fine example of how the verbatim style can tackle things no other style can and there’s a freshness of approach here which makes it stand out. I’m not sure what Sarah and Tony from Clapton Green will think, though…..

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