Tag Archives: Joshua Pharo

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

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

The Shape of the Pain
★★★★★

Wilton’s Music Hall

The Shape of the Pain

The Shape of the Pain

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 19th March 2019

★★★★★

 

“It is a piece about love and pain. And understanding. And it is extraordinary.”

 

The Shape of the Pain was developed by Rachel Bagshaw and Chris Thorpe as a theatrical exploration of Rachel’s experience of living with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – a neuropathic condition that causes constant chronic pain. As the performer articulates in the opening moments of the piece: ‘[It] is an experiment. In how we talk about pain. If we can ever talk about it in a way someone else can understand.’ The piece is also about love; specifically about this woman’s experience of falling in love, and of being in love. It is a piece about love and pain. And understanding. And it is extraordinary.

The elements of the show are simple: one performer, a curve of dark grey metals joined edge to edge onto which text, light and occasional monochrome images are projected, and a soundscape. The piece runs at seventy minutes, and it is a testament to the performer Hannah McPake’s exceptional skill that time passes in a moment, and we are released back into the world after what seems like an extended breath – in some way subtly changed, as if we had been taken apart and reassembled.

Chris Thorpe’s writing is magnificent, swooping as it does between lyricism, abstraction, disintegration and the concrete. It is just devastatingly good. The poetry is everywhere. In angry lists. In everyday observations. And in metaphorical flights of fancy. It is also a hymn to the word ‘fuck’, in all its splendid incarnations.

The writing and the performance operate within an intricate web of light and sound. Melanie Wilson’s textured soundscape is stunning, and Joshua Pharo’s spare video and lighting design is another essential part of this intense and darkly dazzling piece of theatre.

Works of art which endure seem always to have the ability simultaneously to address specific experience and yet encompass the universal. The Shape of the Pain belongs with these. It leaves you with a greater understanding of this rare and complex condition, but also with fresh insight into what it is to be human. It is a rare privilege to see work of this calibre. Go.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography courtesy China Plate

 


The Shape of the Pain

Wilton’s Music Hall until 23rd March

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Songs For Nobodies | ★★★★ | March 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★½ | June 2018
Sancho – An act of Remembrance | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Twelfth Night | ★★★ | September 2018
Dietrich – Natural Duty | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Box of Delights | ★★★★ | December 2018
Dad’s Army Radio Hour | ★★★★ | January 2019
The Good, The Bad And The Fifty | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Pirates Of Penzance | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

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