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Adventures in Black and White by Double Trouble at Camden People’s Theatre

Adventures in Black and White by Double TroubleThere are, I would have thought, many Londoners who have at one time or another been ‘displaced’, such is the volatile nature of the capital’s transport network. One never knows when a signal failure might suddenly occur, or a passenger suicide on the line, or a road traffic incident at a major junction causes nasty traffic jams. So, you’ve got to find another way around, which invariably takes longer, and your plans, as well as those of many others, are thrown into disarray, and not of your own choosing.

Adventures in Black and White is about another level of displacement altogether. Stasys (Judita Vivas) and her family were forced into Siberia as part of the organised migrations ordered by Joseph Stalin, while Lilly (Miriam Gould) found herself on the Kindertransport, coming to the UK from her native Austria. And so, the delays and cancellations on the commuter railway lines in and out of London are, relatively speaking, not much of a problem at all compared to what these characters must endure.

This isn’t, mercifully, melodramatic stuff, but rather quite thoughtful. Sometimes it is sad with a capital S: a sweet (in more ways than one) story turned into something tragic. Lilly’s grandfather, blind, frail and in care, had his favourite kind of cake delivered to him by his relatives (well, delivered by a courier company but sent and paid for by his folks – I trust you know what I mean). With his heightened sense of smell, his reaction was practically Pavlovian, and he began salivating before the smell gradually disappeared. His wife had decided to wrap the cake in cling film and pop it in the freezer, so they could save it for a special occasion when they were surrounded by friends and family. The said special occasion ended up being the grandfather’s funeral.

Some still images provide useful visual aids, even if the acetate overhead projector reminded me of singing hymns in school assemblies. There are insights into how attempts have been made to rewrite history. For instance, when Lilly is handed a set of letters, as far as she can deduce, the facts and events contained in those letters took place, but the letters are unrecognisable, either because she has never seen them before, or, in at least one case, she distinctly recalls that a letter was not originally received as a letter, but as a postcard. Who’s been tampering with her correspondence, and for what reasons?

There are moments when it is difficult to ascertain for certain what exactly is going on, though this is mostly (if not entirely) for dramatic effect. An entire scene is in a foreign language, with set, props and movement helping to provide some sort of framework from which a narrative can be guessed. It is, I can only imagine, rather like that for people suddenly leaving everything they call ‘home’ behind and having to settle somewhere else – all is unfamiliar, and new ways of speaking, working and living must be picked up as quickly as possible.

There are those that make it back where they came from, and those that don’t – but everyone is irrevocably changed. The production seems to run short of momentum towards the end before suddenly concluding. But there’s much to ponder about, and at least for this current run, the audience can discuss the themes raised with some post-show complimentary cake. An intriguing piece of theatre overall.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

It starts with a conversation that never happened.
Stasys and Lilly face each other, unwilling to talk about their exile. But from within the spaces between their words and the seams that hold their patchwork clothes together, images come to life.

We follow the parallel lives of two people in exile, one in Siberia, the other in Sussex, and their granddaughters who are having trouble finding their roots.

Double Trouble explore displacement and its aftermath. Both thoughtful and mischievous, the performance brims with story-telling, sound- and imagescapes, translations, blurry photographs and…cake.

Adventures explores the idiosyncratic habits passed down through the generations of families who have been displaced, and the fertility that lies within the inability to get back to our origins. Celebrating the playful survival tactics employed by young people in exile, we discover the light within the dark.

Wed 24 – Fri 26 Oct 2018 at 9pm


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