Tag Archives: Battersea Arts Centre

Woke
★★★

Battersea Arts Centre

Woke

Woke

Battersea Arts Centre

Reviewed – 12th June 2019

★★★

 

“Campbell is a skilled performer, switching effortlessly between naïve teenager and experienced activist”

 

Nowadays, being woke is the standard. Yet it is also a given: of course we will be aware of certain issues, and naturally we will lend our voices to the collective. But how do we get there? In this powerful one woman show, Apphia Campbell explains how and why we become activists.

Driven by her love for the song ‘Saint Louis Blues’, Ambrosia is going to college in the city on a voice scholarship. It’s August 2014, just weeks after eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was killed by a white police officer. Ambrosia has been raised to respect the law; when the law doesn’t respect her, it comes as unwelcome shock – one that triggers action. Meanwhile, in 1970s New York, JoAnne Chesimard is experiencing a revelation of her own. Growing up, she was called many things. But now people call her African, an African queen. Inspired, she adopts a new name, Assata, and devotes her life to the Black Panthers. The ensuing hour shows how these two radically different women ended up on the same path, and how they choose to tread.

This is a well-crafted show, compelling and often moving. Accompanied onstage by only a microphone and minimal set, Campbell lets her words speak for themselves. The writing is full of clever details that make her characters engaging to watch; the contrast between the two is used to great effect. Ambrosia’s transformation from ignorant bystander to ardent activist is the perfect method of guiding the audience through Assata’s story and its significance. The mounting sense of disgust at the way both women are treated serves to highlight Campbell’s point: the fight has not been won. Assata and Ambrosia were born fifty years apart, yet they struggle for the same thing.

Campbell is a skilled performer, switching effortlessly between naïve teenager and experienced activist. Her voice is rich and soulful; the songs she performs come straight from the heart of the story as naturally as if they were spontaneous. Of the two performances, Assata feels more earnest and driven. Whilst Ambrosia has great character development, she does feel a little underwritten. Her thoughts and feelings whilst in hiding are explored only fleetingly. The conflict between pleasing her parents and expressing her political freedoms is a really interesting one – again it is quickly bypassed. It leaves a sense of something unfinished, of a story with more questions than answers.

Woke doesn’t quite live up to its potential, but that doesn’t diminish its power. Campbell shows that activists come from all walks of life. Some are born woke, some achieve wokeness – but, however we get there, every voice counts.

 

Reviewed by Harriet Corke

Photography by Mihaela Bodlovic

 


Woke

Battersea Arts Centre until 22nd June

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
How to Survive a Post-Truth Apocalypse | ★★★ | May 2018
Rendezvous in Bratislava | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Dressed | ★★★★★ | February 2019
Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Status | ★★★½ | April 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Status

Status
★★★½

Battersea Arts Centre

Status

Status

Battersea Arts Centre

Reviewed – 23rd April 2019

★★★½

 

“Thorpe is a gripping performer and writer who does not shy away from investigating the questions that shape our present”

 

“If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.” This is the quote, a statement made by Theresa May, which emblazons the screen as we enter the theatre for Chris Thorpe’s one man show, ‘Status’. Also onstage is a red guitar which he tunes periodically as his audience arrives.

The piece begins with a trip to Serbia where Chris is going to meet a writer. At a bar, he witnesses an incident of police brutality. When he intervenes and is slammed against a wall, his friend steps in. “You can’t do that to him. He’s British.” These words let him go. Thorpe says that this is not a show about Brexit, but it is certainly a show about the questions Brexit throws up, about nationality and immigration and borders.

Thorpe performs with an emphatic engagedness, speaking in long sentences like the words refuse to end. As he, or a man called Chris who is not him, travels around the world with his two passports, the screen behind him showing snapshot postcards of his destinations (video design by Andrzej Goulding), Monument Valley and Singapore, he meets many people. A stateless man, a coyote who was once a person. There is a hallucinatory quality to much of his journey through the world.

Sometimes his words are accompanied by the guitar, which thrashes into the space, but it is a welcome break in texture. At times the endless sentences spoken always at pace, always so deliberately feel too repetitive, overly long, with little variation in tone. The performativity of the piece occasionally feels difficult to connect with. Perhaps this is also because whilst we are on a journey, it is a journey of pieces and so a coherent narrative drive flags as the piece progresses. Despite this, ‘Status’ is without a doubt a frightening or frightened investigation into what nationality means, globally. Surreal but also very real.

Directed by Rachel Chavkin this is an urgent production that explores privilege (particularly white privilege), nationhood and global uncertainty. Thorpe is a gripping performer and writer who does not shy away from investigating the questions that shape our present.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by The Other Richard

 


Status

Battersea Arts Centre until 11th May then UK & European tour continues

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Dressed | ★★★★★ | February 2019
Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster | ★★★★★ | March 2019
How to Survive a Post-Truth Apocalypse | ★★★ | May 2018
Rendezvous in Bratislava | ★★★★★ | November 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com