The Soho Theatre until 30th July
By Phoebe Eclair-Powell
Directed by Hannah Hauer-King (Damsel Productions)
A contemporary chorus burst on to stage to set the scene for us, Peckham 2016. Sam is a single mum, becoming ever more cornered by the gentrification that swoops across London, bringing the well-to-do types (who can afford to pay sky-high rents on ex-council properties), like MA student Tom, in to the area.
The chorus are a highlight of this production; with slick direction from Hannah Hauer-King, they stitch separate scenes together, deliver the narrative and present a range of attitudes. The three, Naana Agyei-Ampadu, Daniel Kendrik and Anita-Joy Uwajeh have a naturally balanced dynamic and sing pleasing harmonies paired with equally satisfying choreography, which break the story in to more manageable sections – much needed as the content is heavy; they always seem to pop-up at the moment you need some lightness. When not working ensemble, the chorus members each take on a different attitude towards Sam – one feels protective, while another is unsympathetic and the third actively despises her; it’s a satisfying balance of archetypal attitudes and brings the depth needed to bolster Sam and Tom’s story.
Sam is erratic and impulsive, she’s multifaceted and writer Phoebe Eclair-Powell has given us several insights in to her character – a fuller understanding as to why she does the things she does. She’s written a depth of character which encouraged us as audience to consider how we might respond if we saw her smack her child on a bus; for despite her momentary flaws, we see that she loves her children fiercely. There’s no right or wrong presented, just the opening up of questions. Sarah Ridgeway gives an incredible performance as Sam, and keeps our emotions flitting from pillar to post throughout.
Alex Ridgeway plays Tom, the sleazy upstairs neighbour, who at first seems kind and empathetic, but quickly takes advantage of Sam, abusing his position and power in several uncomfortable-to-watch scenes.
Set design by Anna Reid brings a claustrophobic feel to the stage, and panel lights installed in to the roof are great at transporting us to a range of scenes and work especially well in the nightclub. It plays in-the-round, which also adds to the trapped feeling of the characters.
Ultimately this play unearths a deeper societal problem; there some who have been institutionally forgotten and suffer as various events spin together creating a tighter web around them, meaning all too soon they find themselves trapped. Brilliant writing from Eclair-Powell, and though you’ll possibly leave feeling less than uplifted, it’s well worth seeing this ‘modern day Medea’.
© Amie Taylor 2016
Photo: The Other Richard