“When a man is tired of London he is tired of life.” This quote by Samuel Johnson sums up Dirty Special Thing perfectly. In London (the dirty, special thing) there’s so much to do, so many people, so many places, and so little time to see it all in. But have you ever tried looking at London from another person’s perspective? The taxi driver? The Big Issue seller? Or maybe even the city banker? This play is an interesting take on all these questions, giving snapshots into the lives of many different Londoners.
Generation Arts is a theatre company which takes young adults in danger of falling off the rails, and gives them drama. They get training, a qualification, and help with drama school applications. They give these young people a chance and the whole show from writing to staging to performing and after just one year’s training there was some good talent on display. Helder Fernandes who played the taxi driver, Sebastian Carrington-Howell who played the city banker and Shaquille Johnson-Pascale who played the estate boy Jodi all produced believable and passionate performances.
Sadly there were some performances which didn’t work quite so well, some lines were fluffed and there was a lot of speaking too fast and/or too quietly, something that can probably be put down to first night nerves and lack of experience, and I’m sure that these young people will improve over time.
As for the staging of the play there was a clever use of props and movement which had clearly been influenced by other productions – physical theatre similar to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time or masking tape similar to To Kill A Mockingbird to name two examples. It was nice to see that these plays had influenced the young people as it showed the importance of theatre to them. However, I would have liked to see something slightly more original.
The story was good, it was interesting to see London through the eyes of others, to see the way in which seemingly separate lives intertwine at different points and as a Londonder it was interesting to think about what people might think of me as they passed me in the street. In particular the character of the Big Issue seller was interesting as he wasn’t how you would stereotype a homeless person, in fact he was happy to quote poetry and to come up with deep metaphors which suggests he may be educated. It makes you wonder how he ended up like he is and he definitely made me more likely to buy a Big Issue next time I saw him. The only issue with the story was there was no thread running through so everything seemed a bit random.
What I loved though was not the play, it wasn’t the actors or the characters or the set. In fact, it was the atmosphere. Before the show it was clear that most of the audience was made up of friends and family of the performers and the buzz was audible. Throughout the play it became clear that these people had probably never been to the theatre before and they certainly had no idea how to behave in one. Etiquette was well and truly out the window. Normally I’d moan about this but in this context I thought it was great that young people were given a chance to go to the theatre. All theatre fans have a moment when they realise how important theatre is to them and after that moment there’s no going back. Maybe this play was that moment for someone in that audience, or someone on the stage, maybe that’s the moment when they realise they don’t want to do nothing any more, that they don’t want to fall off the rails, and if theatre can give them that then that’s more important than the quality of the performance last night. Overall it was an enjoyable night and I wish the performers well as they move on to drama schools.
Review by Emily Diver
The Platform Theatre directed by Ali Godfrey:
The run is from the 3rd to the 6th June 2015, show commencing at 7.30pm.