Tristan Bates Theatre
Reviewed – 6th March 2019
“A refreshingly uncluttered trio of plays”
As part of the ‘Working Class Stories’ season, the Tristan Bates Theatre opens its doors to the Loosely Based Theatre Company with ‘Classified’ which, in response to the growing inequality between classes, envisions possible eventualities in a gratifyingly old-school production. Writer, Jayne Woodhouse, creates three imaginative and perceptive worlds, with a strong feminine slant, to discuss causes and effects of this division and to reflect on how we are becoming trapped within our own lives through the control of data. Each play has its own style but they are connected by a portrayal of different human reactions to injustice and impotence.
In ‘Choices’, set in the present day, the offer of a better life for her new-born baby leaves Leanne disillusioned about the inevitable prospects facing her son, as an unnervingly persuasive ‘Interviewer’ reveals the effects that the negative algorithms of her lifestyle already have on her child. Anna Hallas Smith plays the young mother, swaying sensitively between tough exterior and internal vulnerability while David Lenik is an appealingly comic tormentor.
‘Classified’ takes us to 2080, when society has succumbed to an enforced class structure. Reminiscent of the ‘angry young men’ dramas of the 50s, a couple discover that their mismatched resistance to authority has unanticipated results. Kate O’Rourke and Aaron Kehoe show a very real and heart-felt dilemma, enhanced by the mindful character writing and unpretentious acting.
Moving ten years on, ‘The Watchers’ depicts two generations, mother and daughter, their grasp of the tighter restrictive barriers and their coping strategies. In stirring performances by both, Kate O’Rourke as the mother is shattered by her passive resistance to the system and resigned to her ensuing downgrading but her daughter, played by Anna Hallas Smith, knows nothing else. She feels protected against the ‘dangerous’ lower classes by the fierce authoritative constraints and reacts disturbingly to the taunting she suffers when she and her mother are forced to move to the other side of ‘the wall’.
Calum Robshaw’s direction is direct and unaffected, providing a welcome simplicity, though the initial set-up as the audience enters is becoming something of a cliché; in retrospect, it detracts from the straightforward nature of the concept. Jayne Woodhouse builds interest and tension in scenes with skill and observation and most of the time the dialogue is in keeping with the roles, occasionally becoming somewhat strident. As a personal note, it would be interesting to interchange the order of ‘Choices’ and ‘Classified’ to reshape the dynamics and make the audience’s participation more poignant. A refreshingly uncluttered trio of plays, ‘Classified’ encourages a consideration of our prevailing social climate with sincerity and charm.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Jayne Woodhouse
Tristan Bates Theatre
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