With the title London Tales and a billing which promised an evening of convivial exploration of the shared experience of being a ‘real life’ Londoner, I was expecting a series of entertaining monologues or short scenes which revealed and examined life in our capital with humour and familiarity. Utopia Theatre offers a fifty minute long devised piece, thinly spread over a larger than necessary cast, trying to create, but just falling short of, a true reminiscence about London life.
The performance began well with an affecting speech evocative of Samuel Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners. This was performed by Gabriel Akamo who, together with Tomide Omoyele and Emily Swatton gave some of the more meaningful performances and really carried the show.
The cast worked well as an ensemble and the physical theatre was effective at recreating the London rat-race. There were also some lovely flashes of comedy; when the cast are a ‘tubeful’ of commuters it is hard not to play at picking out the one you relate to; at one moment I was the one reading the Metro over another passenger’s shoulder, then I was the girl doing my make-up and trying to keep a steady hand over the jolting of the carriage. Also funny were the public announcements of London’s TFL, the theme tune of our commutes – ‘please mind the gap’ etcetera. These moments worked because they were occurrences the Vauxhall audience could relate to.
What I found frustrating was that this piece of theatre was only representative of the hipster demographic. There is a paper fight with torn up Metros and each character takes a microphone to deliver a moment of teenage angst. As a celebration of youth it felt a bit like a school project. It lacked the recognition that London can be more cynical, harder and lonelier than this. There were some devices which were superfluous, for example the recording of some voices which the actors then mimed along to. And the performance moves so swiftly from scene to scene that it was hard to drum up much empathy with the characters, even the homeless of London’s cold streets. I also felt that the explosions of 7/7 were somewhat trivialised.
There are some very talented and committed people among this cast and it is certainly enthusiastically experimental. My main feeling was that the direction by Moji Kareem was trying to tick too many theatrical boxes and therefore lost impact. If you want to catch this inventive piece it is hitting lots of locations around the city. Check out LondonTalesTheatre on Facebook or @Utopia_Theatre on Twitter for more information.
Review by Annemarie Hiscott
Utopia Theatre presents London Tales
A devised physical theatre piece directed by Moji Kareem
Founded by award-winning artistic director Moji Kareem, Utopia Theatre is about fusing sound, music, image, dance, video, puppetry, storytelling and text to create extraordinarily evocative images on stage. They are committed to bringing to life the magic of theatre through innovative productions that engage and communicate directly with the audience, and offering an intellectual rigour and visual flair to productions.
MOJI KAREEM is the artistic director of Utopia Theatre. Previous theatre directing credits include: This is Our Chance (Cultural Centre, Calabar), The Shepherds Chameleon (Bussey Building, London), House of Corrections (Riverside Studios), Wake Me When It’s Time (York Theatre Royal, York), The Maids (York St John theatre Studio York), The Shepherd’s Chameleon (York St John Theatre Studio, York) and The Duchess of Malfi (York St John theatre Studio, York).
In 2011, Moji Kareem was awarded the York Theatre Royal graduate prize for her technical directing skill and the creation of a strongly conceived and polished production for The Shepherd’s Chameleon.
The cast includes Sonia Martins, Gabriel Akamo, Vaiva Vazgileviciute, Sandra Helk, Nicole Magdalena, Sandra Veronica May, Tatiana Collet-Apraxine, Dannie Pye, Tomide Omoyele, Emily Swatton, Anita Joy-Uwajeh, Steve Hill.
13th to 17th January 2015
Lost Theatre, 208 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 2JU
Wednesday 14th January 2015