Healing community parties seem to be becoming a common theme in Alecky Blythe’s verbatim documentary plays. After a resounding success at the National Theatre with London Road (which combined her playback technique with music) she’s ditched the songs and turned her attention to the 2011 riots which spread from Tottenham to other parts of London and further afield.
Blythe was there, in Hackney, Dictaphone in hand, both during and after the burning and looting which developed in the wake of a peaceful protest against a police shooting. The edited down material she recorded is relayed to a dozen versatile professional actors and to a sizeable community chorus effectively integrated into the 85 minute, in-the-round production by director Joe Hill-Gibbins. With earphones in place, they speak the interviewees’ words exactly as they were originally spoken – replicating not only the accent and speech patterns of those interviewed but also the “ums” and “ers” which punctuate everyday interactions.
Her focus is on the divide – which still exists – between the white middle class living on one side of the road and the marginalised youngsters (and their concerned parents) from the estate across the way.
Well-meaning hippyish couple (Imogen Stubbs’ Sarah in a jumble of charity shop clothes and Tony, her bearded media husband) occupy themselves trying to raise financial support for a local shopkeeper whose business has been trashed whilst Ronni Ancona’s estate mum is involved with “Stop Criminalising Hackney Youth” in an effort to change perceptions. Meanwhile Lucian Msamati’s sage barber Colin, a long-term resident, offers his view of the cause of the ongoing disquiet of inequality. And Blythe, playing a somewhat irritating version of herself, is right there – holding up the microphone to a reporter from Germany who’d only bothered to cover the story because the flight to London was cheap.
Where: Almeida, Almeida Street, N1 1TA
Tube: Angel / Highbury and Islington
When: Ends 4 October
Tickets: £9.00- £36.00