One of the best things about the smaller London theatres is the intimate relationship that can be built between the cast of a show and the audience. A case in point is Made in Britain the latest offering at the Old Red Lion Theatre.
Danny (James Rallinson) is all alone in the world since the death of his father – a man he seems to both idolise and pity in equal measure. He is an intelligent lad in his 20s who needs to find a way to express his feelings and his frustration with the disinterest the modern world shows in him and his life. Nina (Sarah Bryan) is also in her 20s, works at Gap and has recently found out devastating news about her mother. She goes in search of her estranged father for his help and support but, things don’t work out as they should, and she ends up running into Danny at a G8 demonstration in London’s Knightsbridge where the two youngsters meet, talk and get to know something about each other before going their separate ways.
That’s the basic premise of the show and without going into spoiler territory, I have made it sound far more simple than it really is. This is an intense play about youth, life and the realities of society in the 21st Century. From the start, Writer Ella Carmen Greenhill knows how to connect with her audience. As each of the actors sat on their chair and delivered their personal story, there was much laughter and nodding of heads as audience members identified with the various tales of their lives and the things that had happened to them in their journey to where they were today. For example, anyone that has ever worked in retail could easily recognise Nina’s tale of the advent calendar in Gap and almost all of us have seen the school bully, as described by Danny, working his own particular brand of mischief through the playground. But even more than the ‘shared’ experiences with the audience, the play explored the absurdities of life where a pint of milk (barely enough to cover your cornflakes) costs 89p but a box of 20 cans of lager costs £10.00 (50p each), where losing your job can mean losing everything whilst those that have caused the economic collapse carry on with their gilded lives. Where it is possible to demonstrate against “The System” but only at the time and in the location allocated by those that run it. Not to say that this play was at all preachy or attempting to deliver some heavy political message, it was simply a boy and a girl trying to make sense of the world around them.
Director Jonathan O’Boyle has done a fantastic job with his two actors, particularly James who was truly amazing as Danny. The direction, combined with the lighting by Simeon Miller and sound by Jon McLeod, ensured everyone was focussed on the simple and yet highly unusual set by Designer Emily Harwood and the two characters inhabiting it. The language was crude at times but never out of place and the pace of this single act play worked perfectly building from a gentle start to an amazing and moving ending that literally took my breath away.
Made in Britain explores many strands of life for today’s youth and thanks to superb writing and acting, does it brilliantly drawing on shared experiences and thoughts so that the Baby Boomers and those of us in Generation X really do engage with Danny and Nina and end up caring about them in a way I didn’t think possible at the start.
Review by Terry Eastham
Made In Britain
Running Time: 1 hr | Suitable for ages 15+
Company Information: Directed by Jonathan O’Boyle, Written by Ella Carmen Greenhill, Produced by Sarah Bryan
Cast: Sarah Bryan and James Rallison
Old Red Lion Theatre 418 St John Street, London EC1V 4NJ
Tues 6 – Sun 11 Jan, Tues – Sat 7pm, Thurs & Sat 3pm, Sun 2pm & 7pm
0844 412 4307
Thursday 8th January 2015