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Common: A new theatre walk from Teatro Vivo | Review

A few weeks ago I went to the London Centre near Guildhall where there’s an exhibition about Great Estates which tells the story about how most of the country is owned by a few individuals and companies – long-term ownership of large tracts of land and it got me thinking about how iniquitous this was and that’s exactly what Common the latest production from Teatro Vivo is all about.

Common: Teatro Vivo - Photographer Matthew Kaltenborn.
Common: Teatro Vivo – Photographer Matthew Kaltenborn.

Common is a site-specific, promenade production that takes place in and around Sydenham in southeast London. Starting in Sydenham Wells Park, the audience are led around the area as the cast tell the tale of greedy, land-grabbing opportunists who own the land and do what they want with it so they can profit and gain power. The story starts circa 1613 as King James I starts to give away land to his cronies and the farmers who work the land and have done for centuries are forced out. As the audience moves around the area, the story moves on in time and ends in the present having learnt about the area and the battle to keep the area green and not built on.

The cast of five, Kas Darley, Nadia Nadif, Endy McKay, Mark Stevenson and Michael Wagg are all very good at playing a number of parts including gypsy queens, farmers, vicars and judges, changing costumes as they go as well as playing various musical instruments. They also have to guide something like eighty people around the streets of southeast London which they do with aplomb. They’re aided and abetted by an all inclusive group of fifteen members of the local community who play farm animals and ghost trees who also help guide the audience around.

Along the way, we’re told to look out for “Albion” – which seemed like a mythical country but in fact, turns out to be a street called Albion Villas Road at the bottom of which is Albion Millennium Green where the production ends with the audience seated around a campfire singing a re-imagined, ‘This Land Is Your Land’ with re-written lyrics talking not about New York and California but Cornwall and the Scottish Highlands.

Common is an interesting piece of theatre that rams home its message about fighting the good fight and making sure that having battled for over four hundred years to keep the area green, the battle needs to continue. Yes, it’s all a bit right on and worthy but that’s not a bad idea in these troubled times. So if you’re a local or someone who’s adventurous, get yourself down to leafy Sydenham and join in the battle – it’s really a lot of fun.

3 Star Review

Review by Alan Fitter

Ravers! Ramblers! Rebels!
For 400 years Sydenham Common has been fought over.
Meet the poets, vicars, wise-women, travellers, and farmers who struggled to keep this vast green space for the people. Join them as they celebrate with month long festivals, songs, strange drinks and poetry. See their marches, battles, sabotage and petitions. Hear what the animals of the common have to say and follow the ghost trees to join the battle for Albion. Your common needs you!
Lewisham-based site-specific theatre experts Teatro Vivo take you on a wild adventure across the Common – visiting the treasures of the local area and celebrating the protests and passion of its protectors.

Cast: Endy Mckay, Nadia Nadif, Kas Darley, Mark Stevenson and TBC
Directors: Kas Darley and Mark Stevenson
Writer: Bernadette Russell
Designer: Alice Neale

Common
A new theatre walk from Teatro Vivo
In Association with the Albany
Written by Bernadette Russell
Directed by Kas Darley and Mark Stevenson
Sydenham and Forest Hill: 7 to 12 May 2024

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