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The Listening Room at the Old Red Lion Theatre – Review

The cast of The Listening Room - Photo Credit Nomad Creative Studio
The cast of The Listening Room – Photo Credit Nomad Creative Studio

If you’re after a performance piece that is as unconventional as it is inspirational then this is not one to miss. The Listening Room is a raw and unapologetically real look inside the concept of restorative justice that focuses on guilt, remorse and forgiveness.

Written by Harriet Madeley and directed by Max Barton, the show is devised from the recordings of real-life interviews with victims, families and offenders of violent crimes. Making the piece particularly raw is the way in which it’s delivered – a verbatim reproduction of the interviews themselves. In place of a script, Brave Badger Theatre have created a real-time interview context where each actor is played the interview through a set of headphones and then reproduces the dialogue instantaneously.

The role of the interviewer is in turn played by the audience, who are guided by a voiceover to engage directly with the cast members – once again, based on the original interview script. Prompted to ask questions about the incidents, the aftermath and their time in prison, the intimacy of the conversation takes the idea of breaking the 4th wall to the extreme; engaging us and creating an intimate conversational space where we are exposed to deeply personal and emotional recollections.

The cast of five are incredibly tight, working with exquisite synchronicity and precision. They set and maintain a steady rhythm early in the piece, visible most obviously through the slick transitions between various points of focus. As the action switches between stories, each actor uses a downlight attached to a chord to draw focus. This simple device allows the audience’s attention to shift effortlessly around the room and is executed with impeccable precision.

It’s also worthy of mention that these actors are extremely versatile. Due to the way in which the piece begins, each actor is randomly assigned one of 5 characters by an audience member. For the first few moments, it was clear that some actors were not as comfortable or familiar with the roles they had been allocated, however after the first few minutes all settled into the piece, delivering raw and honest performances.

The music and visual art aspects of the performance, incorporated as transition scenes, can appear unnecessary early on. That said, once the underlying concept is revealed, it certainly adds an extra dimension to the level of human expression.

A fitting and honest reflection of the restorative justice system, Brave Badger Productions have created an intimate performance piece that simultaneously alienates and engages its audience; repelling us with the senseless and irrational nature of violence, but then beginning to repair the damage with the hope and ambition that is born out of forgiveness.

4 stars

Review by Cassandra Griffin

There is a bit that’s gonna blow your mind. I’ll let you sit down and tell ya
A stirring exploration of life, death and justice, The Listening Room features the true stories of five people whose lives have been transformed by a single violent crime.

Years after trial and punishment, each one of them was given the chance to meet the person on the other side.

This is the extraordinary story of what happened when they said yes.

You’ve gotta really think about… hang on a minute, what do I wanna say? Do I wanna tell em I wanna strangle you, what do I wanna say?

THE LISTENING ROOM
BY HARRIET MADELEY
A NEW VERBATIM PLAY FROM BRAVE BADGER
7th February – 4th March 2017
http://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/

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