Towers is the third of Guildhall’s current showing of their final years. Fury reinterpreted Euripides’ Medea as the story of a working class, single mother in Peckham, a microcosmic examination of social housing and motherhood. Towers is the polar opposite, grandiose in every sense of the word, a macro look at the future of London, and the people who live in it.
Ameera Conrad’s script is extremely ambitious, a rip roar whistle-stop tour through every kind of person living in London, their ambitions, fear and hopes. A lesser writer might struggle with this challenge but Sodha is up to the challenge, finding sympathy in everyone and not skimping on character depth (though some are a bit thin on the ground), revealing the malice lying just below in this capitalist world.
The Magnus Raleigh Group, headed by Meng (Uri Levy) and Leanne (Emma Canning), is an organisation driven by capital and cocaine. Meng is always accompanied by his spiritual adviser, Alleya (Julia Randall), who are hilarious in their eccentricity, evoking the hedonism of Silicon Valley CEOs with aplomb. Such is their comedy, though, that they fail to find a critical distance from their characters, playing almost entirely for laughs over depth; is this satire, or sick comedy?
At the other end of the spectrum are characters like Martha (Erica Nicole Rothman) and Liam (Jordan Angell), residents of the housing block soon to be demolished and replaced. As their quality of life gradually eroded, their possessions and ambitions gradually slip away and they begin to turn against the system. Both give extremely balanced, calm portrayals of characters in crisis; Rothman, in particular, should be singled out as a spectacular performer. Wide vocal range and control, she manages humour and horror in equal measure. Only a third-year theatre student, Rothman is one to watch for the future.
Sodha attempts to give everyone their say, whatever their position in the capital-chain. Declan Baxter’s performance as local councillor Peter Birch is a remarkably sympathetic one, straddling both the worlds of the corporates and the residents. The script becomes the most politically engaged when dealing with the ongoing work of the cleaners. Random interjections of poetry are somewhat non-sequiturial, but Matthew Nikitow’s performance as both cleaner and big money investor is stunning.
From his ‘dead behind the eyes’ night time worker to equally dead-eyed cocaine snorting, suit wearing, big talking bad guy, he carries impressive stage presence. His ‘Magic Mike-esque’ cleaners dance is perhaps the highlight of the show.
Though Towers doesn’t pull any punches on subtlety, giving every character their two penny’s worth of manifesto, this achieves a general diversity of political representation. Despite somewhat relishing in the ridiculousness of the top (the capitalists get the vast majority of stage time), this is a confident examination of the times that be changin’, those who are leading the destructive, and those who are being left behind.
Review by Thomas Froy
Towers, a new production created by Ameera Conrad and the Company looks at the conflicting views of developers, architects, researchers and residents over the development of a South London estate. Directed by Conrad, the play deals with the humanity (or inhumanity) of moving in and moving out. It aims to respond to the housing crisis in London, and the phenomenon of the regeneration projects in areas that used to be social housing.
Company for Towers
Jordan Angell; Declan Baxter; Chloe Caemmerer; Emma Canning; Harvey Cole; Elena Faverio; Dominic Gilday; Jasmine Lee- Jones; Uri Levy; Mirren Mack; Matthew Nikitow; Naomi Preston-Low; Julia Randall; Erica Nicole Rothman; Kalungi Ssebandeke.
Ameera Conrad – director
Susannah Henry – designer
Sofia Di Lorenzo – lighting designer*
Abigail Palmer – sound designer*
*student on the BA (Hons) Technical Theatre Arts programme
11-16 February 2019