It’s not often a show starts by the cast offering audience members a choice of biscuits, but when it does that normally puts this chap into a happy frame of mind. So it was last night when I went to see Manifesto a new play by Sebastian Rex at The Space.
The show itself is one of those that is very difficult to review as, over its roughly 66 minute running time it consists of fourteen individual playlets or points, the start of each signalled by the breaking of a balloon and the dimming of the lights. It is also a show where there is no standard narrative style to follow with each point being very individual and not directly related to the point either preceding or following it.
At the show’s heart is, I guess, the meaning of the word manifesto. For most of us, a manifesto is the document produced by political parties every five years to convince the proletariat to vote for them. It is often put together by a team of people who spend months working on it in great detail much as a programmer will compile computer code, checking again and again to make sure it is accurate. The difference with a manifesto is that it can be thrown away once the party is in power. However, according to Wikipedia, a manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government and in this production each of the individual points that make up the whole is illustrated with a piece of acting by the cast – Emma Blackman, Damian Cooper, Adam Hemming, Sadie Parsons and Annabel Smith – that tells a short story and brings life to the slogan “Avoid Distraction”, “Discard the Unnecessary”, Let Love In!” etc
This is a fascinating idea for a piece of work and on the whole works very well, using human life to illustrate political points rather than using very obvious examples to bang on about things such as global warming, etc. Not all of the individual ‘points’ worked for me but there were some absolute gems among the fourteen. Three that really stood out for me were “Point Two, Terminate Your Past”, “Point Eleven, Map Your Future” and “Point Twelve, Let Love In!”. All three of these really hit the mark for me were a brilliant combination of writing, acting and Danielle McIlven’s deft direction.
At the start of the show, the cast made some comments and asked some questions of the audience. The comments were true and the questions elicited replies that were not surprising. At the end, the cast did the same thing again with a new set of comments and questions which were also true and which received not surprising replies. Proving once more that the world is a funny old place and only a complete philistine would fail to see the wonder of language when used to describe it.
Overall, Manifesto is a very quirky production that sticks to few rules as far as putting show together. It is nicely written in places and each ‘point’ will appeal to some or all of the audience in a different way. Taken as a whole, the show didn’t fully work for me but it definitely kept my interest all the way through and produced some interesting home truths that have definitely given me pause for thought as I consider them today. An interesting and intriguing show that is well worth seeing and remembering in 2020 when the politicos present their own versions to tempt us once more.
Review by Terry Eastham
Space Productions, the Space’s in-house theatre company, are delighted to announce their newest in-house show MANIFESTO. Following the success of recent devised work, including The Man Who Found His Freedom and the Roof Garden Players residency with Canary Wharf, the new production from award-winning playwright Sebastian Rex will run from 27th September – 8th October.
Written following devised work with the company, MANIFESTO. scrutinises the rules we make to live by – why we make them, how we make them and what happens when they’re tested. Explored through a collection of short plays and intriguing characters, this is a bold new approach to creating a brand new production.
The show reunites many of Space Productions’ alumni – including Rex, whose 2012 show Fulfil Me Fully, Phil with the company was nominated for an Off West End Award. Director Danielle McIlven received critical acclaim for her revival of Festen in 2013, receiving 5* and 4* reviews, as well as praise from playwright David Eldridge, who said: “The Space Arts Centre’s Festen in its intimate traverse production on a tiny budget gives the Almeida Theatre original a run for its money.”
Adam Hemming, Artistic Director of the Space said, “MANIFESTO. is a chance to experiment with a bold, exciting new way of creating theatre, whilst working with some of the brightest talents from Space Productions’ history. We started with a blank sheet of paper, discussing what was on our minds and then the ground shifted beneath our feet. The piece is fresh, challenging and relevant.”
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