Tag Archives: Emma Bailey

The Claim

The Claim

★★★★★

Shoreditch Town Hall

The Claim

The Claim

Shoreditch Town Hall

Reviewed -20th February 2020

★★★★★

 

“a tremendous example of when theatre truly can be a powerful mouthpiece and provoke its viewers to want to genuinely act”

 

Many people seeking asylum in the UK arrive hoping for a new start. They feel Britain will offer them a sense of security they’ve been craving. However, studies have shown that the Home Office’s system of processing asylum seekers is failed, with wrong decisions due to misinformation and language barriers happening regularly, causing dangerous or traumatic effects. The Claim follows one such asylum seeker’s aggravating journey of wanting to be heard and find consummate peace. It’s a compelling tale of injustice, designed to incite change.

Serge (Tonderai Munyevu) wants to tell his story. He wants the trauma of his past to be softened by the assurance of protection and stability in this country. The country he’s hoping to make his permanent home. An office, where co-workers A (Nick Blakeley) and B (Indra Ové) deal with claims of refuge. Claims like Serge’s, A and B’s job demands precision and the truth, however in their process of obtaining it, they ultimately fabricate the answers they want through prejudice and misinterpretation.

It is devastatingly heartbreaking to see the anguish and torment Serge is put in, as he jumps through administrative hoops. Never has the term ‘lost in translation’ been so apparent. Playwright Tim Cowbury allows the audience to feel they are fully standing in Serge’s shoes, experiencing the same infuriation as he, within the same moment. You feel an immense sense of investment in the character Serge, rooting for him throughout and willing his actual truth to be heard and understood. Many hands in heads and sighs of frustration could be seen and heard from the audience members. The play generates this kind of immediate, involuntary response. Cowbury masterfully composes interweaving and intercutting dialogue, with voices overlapping into a cacophony of communication breakdown. As much as the writing deals with deep rooted issues, it is off set with amusing moments and witty lines that make this abstract set play a joy to watch.

The three actors play their distinctive parts excellently. They all have a nimble hold on the complex, fast-paced nature of Cowbury’s dialogue. Munyevu’s vulnerability and desperation as Serge is most stirring. Ové as B is unbearably clinical with her job, yet presents a nuanced subtext that proves that B has had her own issues of discrimination to contend with. Blakeley plays the nervous energy of a liberal white male do-gooder to perfection. A’s ignorance whilst trying to be a saviour is most believable.

Played in the round, with some dialogue breaking the fourth wall, the audience are very much immersed in the action. Sometimes, claustrophobically so, feeling too close for comfort to the action. Another device to make the audience experience the same emotions as the protagonist. A simple block in the centre for a chair and vertical, four-corner strip lighting highlights further the impersonal, inhumane environment of such offices.

This is the most affecting piece of performance I have seen in recent time. The Claim is a tremendous example of when theatre truly can be a powerful mouthpiece and provoke its viewers to want to genuinely act. Something that many productions strive to, but never actually achieve. The Claim is different. With strong writing, powerful performances and inclusive staging, this is a terrifically thought provoking show in every aspect. Who knew sitting in a state of exasperation could be so entertaining?

 

Reviewed by Phoebe Cole

Photography by John Hunter

 


The Claim

Shoreditch Town Hall until 7th March

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Shift | ★★★★ | May 2019
Gastronomic | ★★★★★ | September 2019
Kneehigh’s Ubu! A Singalong Satire | ★★★★ | December 2019

 

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Dirty Crusty

Dirty Crusty

★★★★

The Yard Theatre

Dirty Crusty

Dirty Crusty

The Yard Theatre

Reviewed – 28th October 2019

★★★★

 

“as completely random and unexpected as it is, it makes me inexplicably happy”

 

I feel slightly ill-equipped to properly appraise a show that employs so many different contrivances. Dirty Crusty, written by Clare Barron, begins with a plain white origami doll’s house lit from within, accompanied by a voice-over conversation between house mates. Jeanine (Akiya Henry) then appears on the upper stage followed by Victor (Douggie McMeekin) both of whom are holding giant CBBC style microphones. They deliver their conversation half facing the audience, a giant glowing moon projected behind them, and then suddenly they break in to song. They then clamber down to the main set, cast off their microphones and resume a sort of normal narrative.

I say ‘sort of’ because Jay Miller’s direction goes on to use (amongst other things) dance, voice-over narration, another musical number, and strange employment of time. Scenes in entirely different venues, often on different days, overlap: Jeanine and Victor are entangled in bed as Synda (Abiona Omonua) starts her dance class with Jeanine, and vice versa, as Victor initiates conversations about sex fantasies with Jeanine in his flat, whilst Jeanine and Synda are still dancing together in Synda’s rehearsal space.

But whilst the production itself attempts to animate the audience’s disbelief in a myriad of ways, the dialogue and its delivery are painstakingly true to life. Jeanine is thirty-one, and she’s at a difficult juncture. Feeling she hasn’t achieved enough for her age, she looks for ways to improve herself and expand her experiences. She tries to be sexually bolder with her (sort of) boyfriend Victor, and she decides to take up ballet lessons with dance teacher Synda. Her relationships with both are complicated. Sometimes they feed her enthusiasm and sometimes they crush it. Many of the conversations are so close to the real thing that it seems near impossible that they should be scripted. McMeekin’s delivery in particular – every hesitation, every stress – paints such a whole character, full of flaws and good intentions. This seems to be Barron’s particular expertise, having created similarly dimensional characters in her previous work, Dance Nation.

The stage (as designed by Emma Bailey) is built like a wide-set puppet show box, with heavy curtains concealing different sets: One is Victor’s flat, with meticulous Muji furniture; another, Synda’s sparse room, with not much more than a yoga mat for decoration. And a third, hidden for most of the story, is Jeanine’s clothes-covered mess of a hoarder’s room. The ever opening and closing curtains, along with all the other quirky production devices, provide a dream-like quality to the story, somehow magnifying the dialogue’s nuance and conviction.

But just when you think the plot has settled into a more conventional rhythm, (slight spoiler coming up, my apologies) the show ends with a children’s ballet recital- like, actual children ballet dancing. But as completely random and unexpected as it is, it makes me inexplicably happy. And that summary might be applied to the entire play: Completely random, but it makes me inexplicably happy.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Maurizio Martorana

 


Dirty Crusty

The Yard Theatre until 20th November

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
48 Hours: | ★★ | January 2019
Call it a Day | ★★★ | January 2019
Hotter Than A Pan | ★★★★ | January 2019
Plastic Soul | ★★★★ | January 2019
A Sea Of Troubles | ★★★★★ | February 2019
Cuteness Forensics | ★★½ | February 2019
Sex Sex Men Men | ★★★★★ | February 2019
To Move In Time | ★★½ | February 2019
Ways To Submit | ★★★★ | February 2019
Armadillo | ★★★★ | June 2019

 

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