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The Public Shaming of Rufus Love at Hope Theatre

I’ve never been to Speakers’ Corner (it has its own website, for anyone curious https://www.speakerscorner.net/) on a Sunday afternoon, and after hearing this account of what goes on there, I’m not inclined to visit it any time soon. Granted, by its own admission, there’s more than a whiff of dramatic effect going on to hook the audience in, and once hooked, there’s then a need to maintain our interest. But given the plethora of extreme viewpoints at significant variance from one another, it’s a surprise there aren’t acts of violence that break out. Then again, perhaps it’s no surprise at all, given the number of witnesses that there would be, and if the regulars want to come back week after week (they evidently do), it would be in their best interests not to kill one another.

The Public Shaming of Rufus Love. Credit Dom Hall
The Public Shaming of Rufus Love. Credit Dom Hall

Rufus Love came across it whilst on a bicycle ride, and encountered various interest groups, including the distinctly religious and the distinctly non-religious, and a ‘men’s rights’ group, which had some bizarre theories about, well, pretty much everything. The production itself makes good use of the performance space, and in a show that could have relied purely on storytelling and the power of words (you know, like they do Speakers’ Corner), it does well to have a few costume changes and variations in pace along the way.

At the heart of the story is a repeat visit when Love was called out by someone on a soapbox and ridiculed, at considerable length, with miscellaneous derogatory assumptions made about him, his background and personal circumstances, amongst other things. It was, in his own words, and in a very British summation, a bit much. Hoping for some support amongst the crowd, the audience (that is, the one at Speakers’ Corner) instead found humour in what was being said and went along with it.

The play is not, to its credit, at all preachy about this harrowing experience, and the (theatre) audience is therefore left to take away whatever it wants to from this account. Far be it from me to reveal Love’s plan to push back on his accuser the following Sunday – Speakers’ Corner does seem to be a form of ‘church’ for its regulars – suffice to say it doesn’t go according to plan. Love does brilliantly in terms of portraying the different personalities he encounters, including accents and mannerisms, to the point where it’s easy to forget this is a single-performer production.

At just over forty-five minutes, it’s not a second longer than it needs to be. A sometimes very physical performance, it manages to put the audience through the emotional wringer – in a good way, mind you, and with a smattering of (optional) audience participation, it’s as thoughtful as it is entertaining.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Rufus is having an enlightening afternoon mingling with the heretics and the hystericals at Speaker’s Corner. This hallowed ground at the edge of Hyde Park has been home to revolutionary speeches for centuries. In those days, the condemned would speak their last words. Now the executions are merely ideological but you still don’t want to get on the wrong side of the mob…

Nothing makes you so secure in your opinions as a brush with another’s irrationality. But, as Rufus learns, one person’s fool is another person’s visionary. He finds himself choking on his words when one of the speakers picks him out of the crowd. A Twitter pile-on is all the more brutal when you can’t log off!

Show runs from 16th – 27th of May (no shows on Sundays or Mondays)
https://www.thehopetheatre.com/

Related News & Reviews Past & Present

  1. The Cold Approach by Rufus Love at Golden Goose Theatre
  2. Interview with Elinor Lawless and Rufus Wright – The End of Hope
  3. Review of Love Lies at the Hope Theatre
  4. Rufus Longbottom and the Space Rabbit at Stratford Circus Arts Centre
  5. Laurene Hope stars in Piaf: Love Conquers All

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