Dropped Tea Theatre who have produced Knock Down in conjunction with Brixton House, the superb brand-new theatre in Brixton, are three young, southeast Londoners, Nassy Konan, Eva Bradley-Williams and Jesse Bateson who are interested in making work that celebrates and amplifies London’s lost voices and they’ve certainly done that with Knock Down, a site-specific, promenade production that explores, examines and celebrates the memories and stories of people living in the area.
After meeting inside the amazing Lambeth Town Hall, our group of about twenty are taken up into the rotunda for the first of the five pieces that make up Knock Down. There we meet Pamela (Jennifer Joseph) and her granddaughter Melody (Clarrie Mae Bent) as they discuss whether Pamela should return to Jamaica now her husband is dead. She wants to go but Melody wants her to stay. There’s a bit of toing and froing before they come to a compromise that suits them both. Writer Alex Wheatle’s story ‘Homeward Bound’ was short and sweet (like the pieces that followed) but in the fifteen minutes or so he got right into the meat of a discussion that must have played out in the homes of many of those who have immigrated from the West Indies in the past sixty years or so.
Well marshalled by stewards in high-viz jackets, we’re taken over to the Black Cultural Archives for Sola Oludoe’s piece ‘Love For Brixton’ which was billed as a multi-sensory art piece. In a tiny meeting room, there’s a machine pumping out the smell of incense and a video projection of a tour around the area whilst various local voices speak about what makes Brixton so special. Of the five pieces in the production, this was the one that for me didn’t work as well as it should have. The video was shot in portrait mode instead of landscape and projected onto a sheet so was hard to see. Also, the recording of the voices was far from perfect, some were too loud, some too quiet so the overall effect was a little underwhelming.
We then went on to the Ritzy Picturehouse, Brixton’s award-winning cinema. There in one of the bars, brother and sister Aaron (Fode Simbo) and Danielle (Doyin Ajiboye) acted out Thea Gajic’s ‘Favourite Times’ which featured Aaron recording some kind of rap piece/poem into a laptop whilst they argued about biscuits. I’m not exactly sure what this piece was trying to say but the two actors were very engaging.
Then we went into Brixton Market and entered the small but perfectly formed, Round Table Books. There in Jennelle Reece-Gardner’s piece ‘Cultural Musings’, Carlton (Stefan Adegbola) and Cleo (Savannah Ayoade-Greaves) argued the rights and wrongs of the gentrification of the area with both characters having their say and making strong arguments for both. This was probably the strongest of all five pieces as the writing got right to the heart of an argument that has been raging in Brixton and other similar areas of London for the past few years.
Our last stop was Brixton House itself where, in one of the two theatre spaces, in Michael Balogun’s ‘Yin And Yang’, the only white character in Knock Down, Lily (Libby Mae) is in a bar on a date with Tyrone (Shaq B Grant). They skirt around the issue of their different ethnicities as they feel each other out before heading off into the night.
Part of the concept behind Knock Down is that each writer was given just a week to come up with their script and then the actors had just a week to rehearse and hone the material. This gave the pieces a rough and ready feel and an edgy quality that on the whole worked really well. The concept of doing as a site-specific and promenade production gave the audience a chance to walk around Brixton and get a feel for this interesting, multicultural part of London.
Dropped Tea Theatre and Brixton House should be highly commended for putting this all together. Unfortunately, if you’d like to see Knock Down you can’t! It was only on for twelve performances over three days but hopefully, it was a big success (all performances were sold out) and they’ll do it again in the not too distant future as it deserves to be seen by a bigger audience.
Review by Alan Fitter
A collaboration between local talent and local businesses, KNOCK DOWN – Brixton explores the memories, stories and experiences of those who call Brixton home, with a focus on London’s ever-changing urban landscape, gentrification and community dissolution, through vivid performance work and locally commissioned artists.
Featuring performances from five London-based creatives, KNOCK DOWN – Brixton will run from 7 – 9 October across five iconic Brixton venues, including Lambeth Town Hall, Black Cultural Archives, The Ritzy, Round Table Books (Brixton Village) and Brixton House.
7 October-9 October 2022