Tag Archives: Sheila Atim

The Time of Our Lies

★★★★

Park Theatre

The Time of Our Lies

The Time of Our Lies

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 1st August 2019

★★★★

 

“a memorable and haunting tribute to both the historian and his work”

 

It’s not often that audiences see the dramatisation of a history book on stage, so playwright Bianca Bagatourian is to be congratulated for her courage in taking on Howard Zinn’s A People’s History Of The United States. And it’s important to note that if Howard Zinn had not been such a remarkable historian living through several remarkable events of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Bagatourian’s play, The Time Of Our Lies, might not be such a satisfying piece of theatre. The show at the Park Theatre, skillfully directed by Ché Walker, delivers a memorable and haunting tribute to both the historian and his work.

The Time Of Our Lies is an hour or so of storytelling and beautifully performed songs in an empty space presented by a highly competent ensemble of six actors who switch easily between a range of American accents, and a range of other languages as well. The seventh performer, representing Zinn himself, was ably taken on at very short notice by the brilliant Martina Laird, stepping in for an indisposed Daniel Benzali. Laird held the audience spellbound as she recounted stories from Zinn’s life, including service as a bombardier in World War Two, and being knocked unconscious by police batons while attending a workers’ rights demonstration as a seventeen year old in New York City.

This is not just a series of stories (and songs) strung together, vivid and compelling though they are. Zinn’s distinguishing feature of his life as a historian, is presenting the stories of people living through catastrophic times, told in their own words. Hence the importance of the moment in which the act of being knocked unconscious turns Zinn into a conscious observer of historically significant events. Later on, this consciousness leads to his determination to support the actions of his African American students during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The play dramatises these events effectively and then goes one step further — it ties all these narratives together under Zinn’s overarching belief that you should never believe what your government is telling you. In his experience, government always lies — and often for petty, self-serving reasons — and it is only historians who can sort out the truth from the lies. And this is why Bagatourian’s play succeeds — she takes this powerful idea and dramatises it with eyewitness accounts of important historical events, including Zinn’s own.

In short, although going to a show about a history book might not seem the most enjoyable way to spend an evening, do yourself a favour and go. If you can find an American to take along to explain why some of the characters in the play are so significant, so much the better. But if not, you can always read A People’s History Of The United States. Both Zinn’s book, and Bagatourian’s play, are well worth your time.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Tomas Turpie

 


The Time of Our Lies

Park Theatre until 10th August

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Dame | ★★★★ | January 2019
Gently Down The Stream | ★★★★★ | February 2019
My Dad’s Gap Year | ★★½ | February 2019
Cry Havoc | ★★ | March 2019
The Life I Lead | ★★★ | March 2019
We’re Staying Right Here | ★★★★ | March 2019
Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough | ★★½ | April 2019
Intra Muros | | April 2019
Napoli, Brooklyn | ★★★★ | June 2019
Summer Rolls | ★★★½ | June 2019

 

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

 

Time is Love

Time is Love
★★★½

Finborough Theatre

Time is Love

Time is Love

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 4th January 2019

★★★½

“Atim and Akuwudike particularly stand out as being well cast and effortlessly engaging”

 

Set against the dark, urban landscape of modern-day Los Angeles, ‘Time is Love’ is Chè Walker’s new play making its British premiere this year at the ever-intriguing and inventive Finborough Theatre. It’s a tense, urban noir, swerving in and out of lap dancers’ dressing rooms, brothels and police interrogation rooms, making effective use of video and an edgy, percussive score by Olivier award-winning Sheila Atim (who also stars).

Flicking between 2016 and 2019, we are made aware of an impending “catastrophe” by narrator-cum-prostitute Serena (Sasha Frost) that will rock the lives and of Blaz (Gabriel Akuwudike) and his long-term girlfriend Havana (Jessica Ledon). Back in 2016, Blaz is imprisoned for three years, taking the fall for childhood friend and partner-in-crime Karl (Benjamin Cawley). In the three years that follow, Karl and Havana jostle for Blaz’s heart, with Havana ‘playing away from home’ with crooked cop Seamus (Cary Crankson). Sheila Atim’s lap-dancer Rosa offers comfort and wisdom through the smog.

Filled with excellent acting, the ensemble’s characterisations create a convincing image of the Los Angeles underworld. Atim and Akuwudike particularly stand out as being well cast and effortlessly engaging. However, the production has some failings that centre around Walker’s script and direction. A large white screen plays canvas to filmed footage that underscores most scenes, but too often the footage simply shows us the action of the scene ‘on location’ and can be distracting. More interesting is when we see Havana enact violent revenge on an unsuspecting lap-dancer. When film shows us something we cannot see on stage, it really proves its worth.

Too many scenes are created by two characters entering a space and talking. This sometimes works, but with a script littered with lengthy, exposition-heavy monologues, it is easy to lose interest. Walker has a unique take on a classic tale of betrayal, and the world he creates is certainly intriguing, but the focus seems uncertain at times. Los Angeles is a patchwork of people and stories, but we need more as an audience to find these disparate characters worth our time.

Overall, Walker has gathered a stunning ensemble and built a convincing, urban world on stage, but currently it just falls short of being brilliant.

 

Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by DWGH Photos

 


Time is Love

Finborough Theatre until 26th January

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Biograph Girl | ★★★ | May 2018
Finishing the Picture | ★★★★ | June 2018
But it Still Goes on | ★★★★ | July 2018
Homos, or Everyone in America | ★★★★ | August 2018
A Winning Hazard | ★★★★ | September 2018
Square Rounds | ★★★ | September 2018
A Funny Thing Happened … | ★★★★ | October 2018
Bury the Dead | ★★★★ | November 2018
Exodus | ★★★★ | November 2018
Jeannie | ★★★★ | November 2018

 

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