They Built It. No One Came is completely unexpected and yet everything one would expect it to be. A bizarre but delightful mix of mediums which somehow just works.
Created by Fledgling Theatre Company, this show comes to Greenwich Theatre following a successful long run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2016. Happily, it is also about to tour. They Built It. No One Came. was inspired by a true story which was published in the New York Times in 2015 by Penelope Green (The article is available on the internet and worth looking up and reading, should you get the chance). The story is about two men who, with the aim of fulfilling their shared dream of peaceful community living, set up a commune in the countryside. Only things don’t work out quite how they planned. ‘It’s not a lonely place. It’s just jumbled,’ says the article.
And that’s exactly the feeling that is conjured up here. Three out of the four cast members are founders of Fledgling Theatre Company, in fact one of them, Callum Cameron, is the author. Cleverly written with overlapping speech that blends perfectly, and fabulous direction by Lucy Wray, the audience are taken through the various stages of the two mens’ dream, and witness many of the highs and lows that they encounter.
For all its fun, breeziness, and Walt Whitman quotes, the play has several dark, sombre moments which crop up unexpectedly. They touch on bullying, death, and hate crime, and highlight some of the struggles the characters endure. The ambience is kept flowing, but never awkwardly interrupted by Bennie (Edoardo Elia). Is he a narrator, a sidekick, a figment of their imaginations? It’s not made clear, but the character fits. He keeps the piece moving with some lovely songs, and some perfect but subtle comedic reactions.
The other characters of Tobias, Alexander and Pablo (played by Christopher Neels, Patrick Holt and Callum Cameron respectively), bounce off together beautifully, with both tense and tender moments performed with ease. All three deserve special recognition for their commitment to the text and to the characters; their pacing is brilliant and they never falter out of character for a second.
The various props, including two plain pieces of paper and a large linen sheet, are used effectively, flawlessly taking things that could have been mimed into that next exciting stage of becoming what they represent. With a simple but perfect backdrop and a nice use of the studio space, the staging was only let down by poor sightlines from many seats meaning a lot of the action taking place on the floor was missed.
Overall, this is a warm, engaging, heartfelt production about the simple things in life, and how these ‘little boxes of magic’ that our hands are preoccupied with constantly, electricity and the World Wide Web are upsettingly essential these days. We leave with the feeling that we would rather they perhaps… weren’t.
Review by H Hemming
Eight years ago Tobias and Alexander came together to form a spiritualist commune based on their shared visions of a peaceful and harmonious community… they are still awaiting their first member.
They Built It. No One Came was inspired by a true story originally published in the New York Times under the same name by Penelope Green in 2015. Shortlisted for the Charlie Hartill Award in early 2016, They Built It. No One Came. subsequently went on to preview at the New Diorama Theatre in July before going on to a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Tue 31 January-Sat 4 February 2017