‘Power’ is a broad theme to have for a ‘selection of solo performances’, and this is reflected in the short plays that make up Response 2 Power. Unusually, at least in this reviewer’s experience, each of the plays are complete in themselves. Some are extracts from larger works but have been modified and adapted to function as a monologue. The end result is that there isn’t a single section of the evening’s proceedings that the audience struggles to understand for lack of context.
Bed of Roses by Sophie Olivia Ali and performed by Colette Kelly felt a little longer than it really was, probably due to the relatively large number of short scenes as opposed to one long scene. There were so many blackouts I began to wonder if there was meant to be a war on at the time the play was set. Moderately paced, it’s a portrayal of a woman, Rose, of pensionable age, who likes a drink and continues to exercise
a busy social life, even to the point of falling out with a longstanding acquaintance, Marie, repeatedly referred to (with some justification) as a “drama queen”. Rose’s heavy drinking over the years appears to have its origins from a traumatic teenage experience which has had some influence (that is, power) over her entire adult life. An independent older lady with neither walking sticks nor dementia: now there’s something not often seen on the London stage.
Mother Tongue by Karim Khan and performed by Zaki Sadiki explores the power exerted by the education system on children. Adil, now an adult, recounts childhood experiences that come flooding back to his conscious memory after the passing of his father. Having emigrated from Pakistan, Adil felt pressured by his school in the UK to become fluent in British English
sooner rather than later. The consequences were far-reaching, leading to a forsaking of aspects of his family’s culture in order to attain good academic grades. The specific details of the story may not be universally relatable, but the general feeling of being pressured to conform to codes of behaviour far removed from one’s own roots resonated with many.
Quarry by Rachel Smart and performed by Tiannah Viechweg looks at power dynamics in the workplace. Gemma suffers under the tyrannical management of Vivian. The latter bizarrely relishes in highlighting holes in the latter’s negligible knowledge of international politics, rather than making any attempt to explain – knowledge is power and all that. Becoming increasingly desperate at her inability to assert herself, Gemma decides to do a course supposedly providing delegates with “strategies for finding your voice”. She does so (finds her voice, that is), but through sheer frustration with the course’s leader, Kam, as opposed to anything in the course’s content. The acerbic humour provided a strong comedy element to what would otherwise might have been a one-dimensional angry rant.
Meeting by Marika McKennell and performed by Kuran Dohil is about a different sort of tyrannical power. The play is set in a dystopian future in Trinovantum, which pre-dates Londinium as the name of what is now known as London. Make what you will of the reversion to a much earlier name and what it suggests about the regression in standards of living. Gina is in talks with some sort of resistance movement fighting against a government acting
far beyond the usual level of moral dubiousness. If you’ve read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, you’ll know about The Brotherhood, working to destroy The Party. The play ends abruptly, and like The Brotherhood, it’s not even properly established whether this resistance movement is ‘real’ (as far as the narrative is concerned). And I don’t agree with the play’s statement that “there is no good or bad”: in the play itself, the government is bad and the general populace, by comparison, if anything else, is good. Still, it’s brilliantly performed.
Mr Speaker by Eleanor Faye and performed by Sarudzayi Marufu takes the form of a contribution to a Parliamentary debate in the House of Commons. That sounds a little off-putting at face
value, but the script is often poetic and tells the story of a constituent of the MP for ‘Lewisham West and Penge’ (an actual parliamentary seat – incumbent at the time of writing: Ellie Reeves MP). If it comes across as Tory-bashing, this is, to be fair, in the context of the character being a Labour politician, and thus a plausible expectation for a parliamentary speech. Having put across the many deficiencies in today’s Britain, including an ever-increasing crisis in public services, it is, ultimately, a hopeful piece of theatre: “Beware the tides are changing and a brighter day is dawning.” Sound effects helped to recreate the raucous nature of the Commons chamber, and this was a thoughtful and moving speech.
I remain committed to the belief that a person should be able to comprehend a performance without having done any background reading or research beforehand. Short plays, by definition, do not have long to establish a narrative and then take an audience on a journey. It is quite typical for curated events like these to have mini-plays of varying quality – here, however, each of the shows offers plenty of food for thought, and are presented with relish, delight and commitment by eager and passionate performers in this lively and intense production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
What is our understanding of Power? What does it mean today?
Response is an evening of solo performances presented by Blink. Theatre. This December, the second event of this regular new writing night – a response to the theme of POWER – takes to the Old Red Lion stage. Directed by Lotte Ruth Johnson, Response 2 Power showcases six pieces by emerging writers. Working in a collaborative way as an ensemble, Blink. will combine all six pieces into a single performance.
POWER can mean a number of different things to different people. While a remarkably current topic – it is precisely this multiplicity which Blink. believes makes it a fertile theme for new writing. At a time when our definitions of the word might be changing for good, we can think of no better way to address this topic than on stage in front of a live audience.
Response puts a focus on nurturing emerging writers and actors from all backgrounds. Each creative voice and interpretation of the theme is unique – making for an irreplaceable night of new theatre that you won’t want to miss. This event returns after sold-out runs at Alyth Synagogue and the Courtyard and Old Red Lion theatres in early 2017.
WRITERS: Karim Khan, Sophie Olivia Ali, Eleanor Faye, Marika McKennel, Felicity Huxley-Miners, Rachel Smart
PREVIOUS REVIEWS FOR RESPONSE –
“A SERIES OF COMPELLING AND DEEPLY PERSONAL STORIES”
★★★★ – LONDONTHEATRE1
“AN ASTOUNDINGLY MOVING PIECE OF FRINGE THEATRE”
SIMONE BLOOM – AUDIENCE MEMBER
RESPONSE 2 POWER
Sunday 3rd – Monday 4th December 2017 at 7:30pm
Old Red Lion Theatre