As promised, here I am blogging about some of the free theatre I’ve been to see. Contributing to the general discussion is probably the least I can do in exchange! So I went to see the REP’s These Four Streets on Friday. The piece was drawn from the events surrounding the riots in Birmingham in 2005 it started out with about 30 writers workshopping the ideas, and turned into 6 female writers working together to fictionalise characters and situations based on verbatim accounts. I think it’s worth noting how rare it would be that 6 female writers could be found in the same place anywhere (which is why it’s made a point of in all of the literature) and I’m intrigued as to whether that was an active choice, or just the way things happened. I did feel a little like possibly at one point someone had gone ‘we are all women, we should be careful this story does not become female centric’, this could be entirely wrong, it is just my impression, (but my impression is worth just as much as the next persons :-)) however I did feel like the male voice was over-compensated for, and in the end, a story that started from a rumoured rape didn’t even begin to tackle the aspect of urban tribe property/belongings (and how women fit into that) and how that relates to belonging to a place, and rather drew its emotional centre from the death of a young boy. This was one of the main problems with the whole thing though- unfinished stories. The piece had 6 actors covering over 30 characters, most of which you saw only once, and at most, twice. Normally a fractured narrative is united by the telling- by the writers voice, however because this series of snapshots was contributed to by 6 writers it needed more than the bookend device of several voices saying ‘these four streets, I live here etc.’.
Having said that, I still think this piece was much better and more interesting than Don John. Don John was the skeleton of a story stretched out for far too long, and far too flabbily (good word). These Four Streets on the other hand was just so much, so many stories, the main problem being that they didn’t have enough of an airing. Not necessarily by doing less, but by looking at things with more depth – asking questions more, of their characters, of the audiences. I think the best compliment I could give the piece is that it really made me want to write a play about the subject material, and it was an important story, that deserved exploration. I was listening to the conversations around me, and it seemed most of the people were local people who hadn’t been to the theatre before, the audience as a whole was probably at least 50% black, and it sounded like a lot of them were there because it was about them. As I left a young girl was crying about a friend who had been killed. This was theatre talking directly to a people about their own lives, which is very basically what I believe theatre should be. It was flawed, but because of all the right reasons.
It was also performed with tact and a lovely light touch (in fact Bharti Patel and Lorna (can’t remember second name) have both worked with Foursight, and Lorna was an actor with the MPhil showcase) and the direction made the most of the difficult structure and storytelling.
So yes, those are my quick thoughts. I’ve got a billion other things to do so I wont do an in depth dissections, but if you have any questions or comments, will be very interested to hear them.
It’s The Hounding of David Oluwale this Friday- a WYP co-production I think, in the main house, so stay tuned for my reaction to that.
Thanks for reading.