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Review of Jonny Woo’s East London Lecture

Jonny Woo
Jonny Woo – Photo credit The Mill Co Project

Jonny Woo’s East London Lecture is currently playing at The Ditch at Shoreditch Town Hall. It previously had a sell-out run at the Rose Lipman, and before that was at the Bistrotheque in 2010. The show is currently running until the 30th April 2016. The performance is a “part-lecture, part-musical and part-immersive theatre” centred on Shoreditch and the warehouse party scene of the mid 90s that led to 20 years of regeneration in East London.

I’m not sure what you were doing in 1995, me? Well I was drinking cider in my local pub, listening to Oasis and Blur on the radio and studying hard for my A Levels. Some 60 miles south the Shoreditch warehouse scene was emerging throughout the run down, empty spaces within the Shoreditch Triangle; Shoreditch High Street, Great Eastern Street and the Eastern most point of Old Street, the centre of which was the Bricklayers Arms. These people and their actions were to be the spark that ignited the first wave of Shoreditch hipster culture.

Woo’s show is a carefully and beautifully constructed piece of verbatim theatre. He incorporates interviews from the former inhabitants of the Shoreditch Triangle: Vicky, Fee, Pablo, David, Tim, Alan, Jim and Ted. It is clear that these people are characters he holds close to his heart.

There are fond memories with each character he portrays on stage. Woo carried out a series of interviews with current and former residents and he has incorporated their words into song lyrics and characters intrinsic to the storytelling of his East London Lecture.

For those of you who know Jonny, be that as co-owner of The Glory, or Drag Queen performer, or even as host of Gay Bingo, you may actually be surprised to see how talented an actor he is. He is able to seamlessly merge from one character to another, each character performed with love and tenderness and an admiration regardless of gender, age or sexual orientation. These people are Jonny’s personal history and  have gone on to be celebrated as part of the emergence of men with beards and drain pipe trousers in 2016’s Shoreditch.

Jonny is an engaging performer who welcomes you unapologetically into his world, he makes you feel comfortable and accepted as you delve deeper in to his former life; a pleasure-seeker in a world that wasn’t ready for the energy and desires of Youth.

This is a site-specific production – taking place within the heart of Shoreditch town in a large empty space, with re-imagined characters, smoke machine, snow, strobe lighting, a crate of Red Stripe, extra loud speakers, an inside lawn and accompanying loud music. Behind the wide open space of the warehouse set the audience is also invited to enter a backstage area representing an artistic impression of Fee’s Shoreditch abode from the early 90s; an apartment synonymous with hedonism and Flamboyance.

The show is quite raw and very honest. Is it indulgent? Yes, but not in an arrogant way. In fact as the lecture progresses you learn to love all of the characters, you imagine what it would have been like to live through parties DJ’d by Fee or to have a cup of tea with the older generation and fear the Krays. What it would have been like to be a “little bit crooked” as that meant you were accepted.

I LOVED this production; I loved the characters and their stories. I felt like if I shouldn’t’ have been an 18-year-old living in a small town, but part of that life-affirming movement where anything was possible.

5 Star Rating

Review by Faye Stockley

‘In 1995, in a pub called the Bricklayers Arms, in Shoreditch, the world began’.
In this lecture style performance, Jonny relives moments from the warehouse party scene, which kicked off the next 20 years of regeneration in East London. Using the text from interviews with his friends from the time, artists, new comers and a local resident called Jim, he documents the moments when Shoreditch went from forgotten inner London backwater to the centre of all things cool. Lively, unexpected and thoroughly entertaining, Jonny Woo’s East London Lecture is a life affirming look at urban change and our notion of community.

Presented by The Mill Co. Project & Shoreditch Town Hall.
Wednesday 20th April – Saturday 30th April 2016
Suit photo credited as The Mill Co Project
Book Tickets for Shoreditch Town Hall
http://shoreditchtownhall.com/

Author

  • Faye Stockley

    Faye read Theatre & Performance at The University of Warwick; she went on to work as a stage manager in London and Edinburgh. She had a year's stint on-board the MV Island Escape as a Social Host and Compere and now works full time as a Recruitment Manager for the broadcast, entertainment and media sectors.

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