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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Review: 'This Is Not A Safe Space' at the Camden People's Theatre, 17th April 2018

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

This Is Not A Safe Space reviewed by David James
Rating: 3 Stars

You might assume a show titled This Is Not A Safe Space would be some identity-politics-baiting, politically-correct-puncturing attack on Millennial sensitivities. It isn't. In fact, host Jackie Hagan goes out of her way to create a safe space, from assuring any audience members with Tourette's that they do not need to suppress their tics, to providing BSL support throughout the show, right down to the simple way she quickly befriends the audience.

No, the 'space' referred to in the title of the show is, sadly, the United Kingdom as a whole. Since the 2010 election the Conservative government (with the help of the Liberal Democrats) have constructed a purposefully cruel environment for disabled people.

This is a many-faceted cruelty - taking the form of ATOS/Maximus run 'work capability assessments', byzantine PIP (Personal Independence Payments) forms and a general cultural shift that portrays people receiving benefits as workshy scroungers. It bears repeating that the paranoia, misery and pain caused by these systems is not an accident, it's purposefully designed into the system and is borne of a philosophy that posits people claiming disability benefits are actually able to work and simply need to be beaten until they'll admit it. The consequences of these systems are brutal, with DWP statistics revealing that 2,380 people died between 2011 and 2014 alone shortly after being declared able to work.

Into this strides Jackie Hagan: heavily tattooed, fairy lights wrapped around her glittering prosthetic leg, pink-haired and pissed off with the state of the world. Over the course of an hour, we hear how the DWP's policies have impacted upon her life and those around her. To a backdrop of ragged toys and tattered junk she opens the doors on her life, touching on her daily annoyances with people calling her 'brave' and taxi drivers telling her she could be a Paralympian (to which she responds, "Well, why aren't you an Olympian?").

This segues into her experiences with the dreaded PIP forms, which she lucidly outlines as a bureaucratic exercise in humiliation. Filling it out is an exercise that defeats even the naturally optimistic Hagan: who explains that her viewpoint on life is to take all the shit that life hands her and roll it in glitter. Filling in this form is like painstakingly picking every piece of glitter back off that shit, then rubbing the turd in your face - forcing you to dwell on when you were weakest, when you embarrassingly failed, and the moments in which your life was at its absolute worst.

As a reaction she imagines a fantasy PIP form that inverts the DWP's intentions and makes you feel good, asking questions like "Are you (a) awesome, (b) awesome wonky) and (c) wonky with strains of awesome". It's a funny, touching moment - Hagan's intrinsic warmth and empathy a stark contrast to impersonal bureaucratic cruelty. Her argument is further supported by clips of interviews she's had with friends and acquaintances dreading ATOS means testing and terrified of having their already not great living standards further reduced.

Successfully communicating the horror of this system while being funny and good-natured is a tricky tightrope to navigate, and it's to Hagan's credit that she manages. However, there are moments where the focus slips. Most of these come in the (apparently) improvised moments in which Hagan interacts with the audience or heads off on a tangent. On one hand, these moments help define her character and go a long way towards making us like her, on the other the anger of the show is so righteous and its target so deserving of disgust and mockery that the slacker moments feel like time wasted.

It's a tricky criticism - after all, toning down the lighter bits could throw off the balance of the show. Then again, the systems that are the subject of the show are so important, infuriating and morally repellent that as much light needs to be cast on them as possible. Jackie Hagan is absolutely the person to be doing this: there's a razor-sharp lyricism in her poetry, she's an imaginative, engaging performer and is smart enough to distil these issues down and communicate them quickly and effectively.

This Is Not A Safe Space isn't a perfect show, but then it's probably not meant to be. It is, however, an eye-opening examination of how government policy and ideology preys upon those they consider least able to defend themselves. If you want to get angry, check it out.

This Is Not A Safe Space is at Camden People's Theatre until 21 April. Tickets here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Review: 'Plastic' at The Old Red Lion, 10th April 2018

Wednesday, April 11, 2018 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

Plastic reviewed by David James
Rating: 4 Stars

Kenneth Emson's Plastic uncannily captures the pressure cooker environment of comprehensive school. For its pupils, the trivialities inside the school gates are of monumental significance, providing a bubble-wrapped microcosm of impending adult life. For some, this will be where they peak - popular, cool and athletic. For some, it will be an oppressive hell. For most, it will simply be life as they know it.

Plastic follows three pupils and one former pupil as they experience a day that'll change their lives forever. They are; Jack (Louis Greatorex), an average kid who's easily embarrassment and just trying to keep his head down; Ben (Thomas Coombes), Jack's best friend and bullied to the point of mental breakdown; Lisa (Madison Clare) childhood friend of Jack and Ben who has now drifted away to socialise with the 'cool kids'; and Kev (Mark Weinman) formerly the much-loved captain of the school football team, now unemployed, directionless and mildly depressed.

The four work their way through a narrative that, spelt out beat-for-beat, is pretty straightforward. However, Plastic really shines in the way that story is told, using various literary and theatrical techniques to impress upon audiences the gravity and oppressiveness of events, and to give us a taste of what it's like to be within the story looking out, rather than merely observing passively.

One of Emson's best weapons is loosely lyrical repetition. Phrases and words refract throughout the narrative: "Reebok classic of a day today", "Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook", "Blink". These (any many similar elements) combine into a fractal script that loops in descending spirals around key events in these characters' lives, granting small moments weight and meaning.

It's a perfect simulation of the schoolyard mindset, in which the smallest embarrassments or triumphs are magnified and dwelt upon. It also neatly communicates the act of remembering, with the play not told from one viewpoint but the hazy amalagmation of several memories. 

This detachment allows Plastic to repeatedly unmooring itself in time and space and allowing its characters to drift through the years. Though it is all about one very important day, we take dreamy trips into distant potential futures and even right back to the moment of birth. Even better, Emson doesn't get knotted up in the ambitious technique and form, always ensuring that we're emotionally as well as intellectually engaged with what's going on.

This emotional engagement helps the play navigate some slightly choppy waters later on in the narrative, in which we get into male entitlement and violence. It's here that the one (small) fly in the ointment lies: the play is so good at amplifying everyday adolescent terror and lust that a step into more sensational territory feels a bit out of step. 

Granted, this event leads directly to one of the best scenes in the play, but I almost feel that the play would be more powerful if it were just about the crushing importance of apparently trivial interactions. In addition, the ethical (and, let's face it, criminal) issues of a romance betweem a twentysomething and a schoolgirl is perhaps glossed over, but Emson at least contextualises this and grounds it in the characters.

Anyway, to put the big juicy cherry on top of the thing is that it's marvellously performed and produced. I can't slide a Rizla between the cast members, though I have to single out Madison Clare's impressively multi-layered performance given that it's her professional stage debut. Josh Roche's direction also nicely takes advantage of the performance space and smartly forgoes scenery in favour of Peter Small's excellent lighting - which consisting of lightbulbs hanging from overhead tracks that can be propelled across the stage.

It adds up to a genuinely gripping piece of theatre, one in which it feels like every creative involved understands the piece, is working on all cylinders and is pulling in the same direction as everyone else. Plastic is a testament to the potential of fringe theatre, a full-throated demonstration of what can be achieved with brains, talent and a relatively modest budget.

Plastic is at the Old Red Lion until 21st April. Tickets here.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Review: 'Love Me Now' at the Tristan Bates Theatre, 29th March 2018

Friday, March 30, 2018 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

Love Me Now reviewed by David James
Rating: 4 Stars

Oscar Wilde said "Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power." and while I know beginning a theatre review with an Oscar Wilde quote is unbelievably pretentious, it neatly sums up Michelle Barnette's Love Me Now. Billing itself as about "the grey area between love and sex, consent and compliance, yes and no", it attempts to map out the treacherous, windswept coastline of what we want and what we want.

Set in the bedroom of 'B' (Helena Wilson), this 75-minute long play chronicles her casual relationship with fuckbuddy 'A' (Alistair Toovey). The way it works is that confident gym-taut A arrives at B's place and the two get down to a bout of sweatily physical sex that scratches both their itches. Then he pops his jeans back on and heads out into the night. They're not monogamous, they're not in a relationship - it's a mutually pleasurable sex transaction.

That's the theory anyway. Inevitably emotions start to muddy the waters: A's determination to make this solely about sex causes him to define B purely in terms of her body and what it can do for him, which soon manifests in blunt misogyny and objectification. Meanwhile, B wants to play out the no-strings-attached, sex-positive archetype, but finds herself dismayed and alienated by the way A minimises her personhood.

And so things curdle. Before too long A is attempting to convince a clearly unhappy B to give him head, claiming they'll decide it on the flip of a coin "heads for head!", a puke-inducing situation that comes alongside frequent little nibbles at her self-esteem, behaviour and looks. These culminate in a shiver-inducingly intense scene around which the entire play revolves.

About two-thirds of the way through, 'C' (Gianbruno Spena) is introduced. At first, he appears to be the empathic, kind and sweet counterweight to A, though his obsequiousness manifests as yet another brand of condescension. Both men want B to be something she's not. B knows what she doesn't want. Trouble is, she's not sure what she does want either. What she does sense is that despite her sex-positive feminism, she's walking a path trodden by countless exploited women who've come before. Just where is the boundary between no-strings sex and being some prick's convenient sex receptacle?

It's one of those obtuse emotional knots that looks ridiculous written down - but it's safe to say that damn near everyone in the audience will be able to empathise with something here. Charting this psychological alphabet soup is a daunting proposition, which makes it all the more impressive that this is a debut play.

Aside from the way it intelligently dissects the politics 21st-century sex, Love Me Know is also extremely funny - achieving my gold standard of comedy of the audience laughing so long and hard that the actors have to wait to deliver their next line. Barnette consistently displays a dab hand with cutting, witty dialogue, reminding me of some of Patrick Marber's vicious dialogue That the play is so damn funny also makes the tonal shifts that much more effective. Laughing along with B makes you feel connected to her, which loads violent moments with the kind of gripping pain that lodges in your throat and makes your head spin. 

It adds up to a remarkable bit of writing. There are flaws: the jumbled chronology is only partly successful and the narrative collapse finale could be trimmed back quite a bit without losing any oomph. But these cracks are more than papered over by the high standard of the script, striking stage/sound design, and three excellent performances. Quality-wise there's little between them, but Helena Wilson must be singled out for the way she layers complexities onto an already densely written lead character without ever getting ahead of the script.

Love Me Now is confident, smart and stylish. It feels like a show in which everyone understands what the goal is and everyone pulls in the same direction to achieve it.  That this is Michelle Barnette's writing debut makes it even more of an accomplishment - I'll be there for whatever she does next. In the meantime, the show clearly has potential beyond this particular run, so if you miss out here I suspect it'll be transferred elsewhere before too long. 

Love Me Now is at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 14th April 2018. Tickets here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Review: 'Moonfleece' at The Pleasance, 27th March 2018

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

Moonfleece reviewed by David James
Rating: 4 Stars

The psychology behind far-right groups is darkly fascinating. I've always thought they share a lot in common with religious cults: both prey on directionless people with little going on in their lives, both encourage insular language and acronyms, both are eager for displays of commitment (for example visible tattoos that make it difficult to leave), and both rail against a shapeless, formless adversary that is simultaneously laughable and all-powerful.

Philip Ridley's Moonfleece, first performed in 2010, takes us under the skin of a burgeoning far-right party. It's called Avalon and is intended to evoke the St George-waving imagery of the English Defence League, British National Party and the umpteen scraggly back-room-of-the-pub nationalist groups looking for someone to kick the shit out of.

The play is set within a condemned flat in the East End, formerly the childhood home of Curtis, (James Downie) a blonde, slicked-hair, besuited young fascist trying desperately to project an air of intimidating confidence. Now it's a squat, occupied by street entertainers Link (Rocio Rodriguez-Inniss) and Zak (Jaz Hutchins).

Curtis and his neo-Nazi chums re-enter the flat by kicking the door in and order Link to leave. She angrily refuses, and before too long the living room is populated by a gaggle of loose acquaintances who've gotten word that something interesting is going down. By the end there are eleven people crammed on stage: including (but not limited to) the three fascists, their disappointed former friends and an overly-dramatic would-be psychic.

Over the course of 90 minutes, Ridley efficiently demolishes far-right groups, and does it without engaging them on their preferred ideological battleground. Arguing the benefits of multiculturalism, the inanity of racism and the logical inconsistencies of fascism is pointless - any jumped up fascist worth his salt will have been thoroughly impregnated with rhetoric cul-de-sacs and disingenuous responses designed to infuriate anyone engaging with them.

A much better tactic is to get under their skin and make them understand why they're so enamoured with its pale shade. Ridley's thesis is that in an ever-complicated world in which horrible things seem to happen for no reason, people instinctively latch onto easy answers.

Your life is not a meaningless, impoverished trudge because global economic systems require it to be - it's because of Amir down the newsagents! Your Mum didn't die of a treatable disease because the NHS is chronically underfunded and being prepared for consumption by US healthcare giants, it's because the hospitals are full of scrounging migrants leeching off good honest people like you.

It's an insidiously Manichean mindset: condensing the terrifyingly infinite complexities of the world down to a black and white, good versus evil, us versus them divide. After establishing this, Moonfleece then goes on to outline some of the consequences of signing up, demonstrating through the story of Curtis' family that this worldview does not admit nuance and complexity - to question one facet calls the entire corrupt philosophy into question. It picks at the fraying edges of fascism - showing that their supposedly strong inter-group bonds, loyalty and unity will quite easily be cast aside should you stray from a prescribed path.

It's a marvellous piece of writing, but then it's a Philip Ridley play so you kind of expect that. Fortunately, this particular production more than does the ideas and writing justice. Some members of the young cast (particularly James Downie and Rocio Rodriguez-Inniss) catch the eye more than others, but there's not anyone even approaching a weak link here. Everything is shot through with a palpable energy and dynamism, perhaps best demonstrated when Jaz Hutchins leaps around the room while performing a story, in the process casually demolishing a number of the props.

Despite the on-stage chaos, Max Harrison's direction is extremely precise. The performance space is pretty cramped, especially towards the end when the eleven-strong cast are all on stage at the same time- yet the blocking is impressively invisible. The decision to use traverse staging helps, though perhaps inevitably there are a couple of moments where sightlines of key moments are blocked by actors standing right in front of me.

However, despite the play 'only' being eight years old, the nature of the far right in Britain (and elsewhere) has evolved since 2010.  Crowbarring more contemporary stuff into a narrative this carefully constructed is unwise, and the basic psychology behind it hasn't changed. Still, I'd love to see a piece of drama that chews on modern 'ironic/not ironic' internet fascism.

Quibbles aside, this is a great show. It showcases both cast and ideas beautifully, and I don't hesitate to recommend you check it out.

Moonfleece is at The Pleasance until 15 April. Tickets here.

Pictures by Gregory Birks.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Review: 'Faces In the Crowd' at the White Bear Theatre, 20th March 2018

Wednesday, March 21, 2018 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

Faces In The Crowd reviewed by David James
Rating: 2 Stars

Have you ever heard a blazing row emanating through apartment walls? Muffled yells in various pitches, punctuated by the grinding of furniture and slammed doors. All the while you pray you're not going to hear the leaden thump of a body hitting the floor. Leo Butler's 2008 play Faces In The Crowd takes us into just such a pressure-cooker: showing us an extremely unhappily married couple who spend 80 minutes tearing strips off one another.

Dave (Adam Bone) and Joanne (Bonnie Adair) got married on a teenage whim. For two people in love, the world was their oyster. But things rapidly curdled: easy credit and buy-now-pay-later deals left them sucked into a quicksand of monthly payments. Disillusioned with the incoming future of soul-crushing suburban drabness, Dave left a note on the mantlepiece and fled south to the bright lights of London, abandoning his wife, his family and a mountain of debt.

Ten years later, Dave is living in a studio flat off Old Street, got a job as a recruitment consultant, is nursing a casual coke habit, reads the Guardian and watches Question Time. His northern accent has faded and the past seems like a distant memory. But now a resentful Joanne is back. She doesn't want money, she doesn't even want an apology, she just wants a baby. And the least Dave can do after his abandonment is knock her up.

It's strange watching a play and feeling the most sympathy for a character who hasn't even been born. Both Dave and Joanne are extremely unlikeable characters: petty, small-minded, vain and obsessed with material possessions. They hate one another almost to the point of murder and any child with them as parents has a cast-iron destiny of fuck uppery waiting for them.

In fact, Dave and Joanne are so off-putting that even when they reveal (what is theoretically) their sympathetic sides later in the play it's just not enough to turn me around. What we essentially realise is that they might have been able to have a happy life together if their dreams hadn't been poisoned by consumerist fantasies, realised by unsustainable levels of personal debt. Characters decry easily available credit and falsely promised opportunities and are extremely bitter that the life they thought they were entitled to was an illusion.

Fair enough. But it doesn't stop them from also being complete twats. It makes me unsure how to judge Bone and Adair's performances; if the objective was to accentuate these characters' unattractive qualities then mission accomplished; if we're supposed to care about them then things have gone a bit awry.

Adair manages to create one of the more repellent, hateful characters I've seen in a play of late, nosing about and delivering a constant stream of small-mindedly pissy comments. Joanne's body language is reptilian, her eyes deadened and accusatory, she's got the sexual charisma of a brick wrapped in barbed wire. 

Bone's Dave is slightly more sympathetic, but only because he's so pathetic. He's scrabbling for the last vestiges of his youth: singing the praises of teenage bimbos sucking his cock ("they've got tits like meringues!"), showing off his big plasma TV ("I own that!") and bemoaning that his infantile fantasies of being a rock star never came to pass ("if only I could play a few chords!").

Their complete twattishness makes it difficult to care, which in turn makes spending 80 minutes with them tedious. If you buy into the assertion that macroeconomics has made them the horrible people they are, there might be a kernel of interest. If not (and some of the financial concerns of the play feel a bit dated ten years on) then you're just left with unhappy pricks wallowing in the detritus of their broken lives.

And if I really wanted to see that kind of thing, I'd just switch on Jeremy Kyle.

Faces in the Crowd is at the White Bear until 31st March. Tickets here.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Review: 'I'd Be Lost Without It' at Stratford Circus Arts Centre, 15th March 2018

Friday, March 16, 2018 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

I'd Be Lost Without It reviewed by David James
Rating: 3 Stars

Fashionable Luddites drive me up the wall. You can't go five minutes without hearing about the benefits of 'digital detox', how the kids' brains are apparently melting or seeing a rosy-cheeked Guardian columnist touting the benefits of their 'Year Without Wikipedia' or some shit. 

It's symptomatic of a deep-rooted conservatism that fears change: the age-old chestnut of hearkening back to some dimly forgotten golden age where people handwrote letters to each other and looked up facts in dusty encyclopaedias. If the way we think is indeed changing as a result of almost every human on the globe being networked together, who's to say that whatever humanity ends up as won't be an improvement on the disconnected navel-gazers that shuffled along in decades past?

So I was a teeny bit sceptical of Wet Picnic's I'd Be Lost Without It, which posits that "we are increasingly connected with one another and the world around us through technology, and yet feel a sense of disconnection on a human level with ourselves and with one another". To which my instinctive response was that I certainly don't feel disconnected with myself. And what the hell does that even mean anyway?

It sounds like we're in for an hour of finger-wagging gloom, so it's a nice surprise that I'd Be Lost Without It is an upbeat, funny and extremely personable show. The broad concept is not dissimilar to a silent disco: each audience member wears wireless headphones that pipe through the show's narration and score. This is accompanied by the cast (Graeme Cockburn, Alex Bird, Emma Brand, Jack Goldbourne, Grace Lambert and Ana Mirtha) doing a series of dance and clowning routines, physically realising what we're heading.

The audience is divided into three groups,  each group occasionally receiving commands through their headphones. So a third of the crowd might start walking through the space like prowling lions, or perhaps waving their hands in the air (like they just don't care).

There's so much imagination, energy and skill in the choreography and execution of the show that it's very easy to get swept up in it. Each member of the cast has enviably expressive features and they use them to deliver a very entertaining mime show crammed full of interesting moments. Looking around the room during the show, most of the audience had big smiles plastered on their faces: and rightly so.

However, despite being very enjoyable, the argument it makes is frustratingly fuzzy. The show portrays humanity as a species learning to live in symbiosis with digital technology but doesn't offer any real insight of what this might mean other than some superficial behavioural observations. The show notes explain that this is intended to be an analysis of a 'mental health crisis' - yet there's nothing that feels particularly urgent or scary about the world presented here.

I'd Be Lost Without It is fun, but isn't quite as insightful as it could be. Everyone having a device in their pockets putting them in contact with almost everyone on the planet, giving them access to the sum total of humanity's knowledge and, when all that gets boring, lets us  play Monument Valley 2, is a fantastic development for humanity - the realisation of what were wild science fiction dreams just 30 years ago. 

Perhaps what's tripping up this show is that we can't know how we're being changed, how all this is going to end and we can't put the genie back in the bottle. Like the caterpillar waiting to bust open its chrysalis, all we can do is hope for the best.

I'd Be Lost Without It is currently touring. Dates and locations here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Review: 'Trap Street' at the New Diorama Theatre, 13th March 2018

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - by londoncitynights · - 0 Comments

'Trap Street' reviewed by David James
Rating: 4 Stars

Britain's post-war housing estates were borne from utopian ideals. The days of mouldy Victorian terraces were over: replacing them would be elevated communities in flats with all mod cons: cosied by central heating, blessed with stunning views and boasting pleasant green spaces in which to socialise. What could possibly go wrong?

Cut to the modern day and the estates that survive are, for the most part, graffiti-covered hellholes with pissy lifts. The scared residents that remain have barricaded themselves behind steel security bars and the social spaces are occupied by bored and hostile kids. Culturally these places are now bywords for neglect and criminality - and make excellent backdrops for low budget horror and gangster movies.

Kandinsky's Trap Street tries to explain why this happened, the effects the transformation had on long-term residents and the consequences of the estate's demolition and redevelopment. The vehicle for this is the story of the first family to move onto the fiction Austen Estate in Bermondsey, whose story we follow from their arrival in the early 1960s to the demolition of the estate in 2017. 

The story centres on Valerie and her daughter Andrea (both played by Amelda Brown). Their story is one of slow disillusionment with the social systems designed to take care of them, with Valerie fighting a Sisphyean battle against the estate's social collapse and, in 2017, the now elderly Andrea struggling to sell up for a reasonable price and remain in the neighbourhood.

Trap Street tells a half-century long, cross-generational saga with impressive ease. But this story is just one facet of an information-dense tapestry that includes dramatisations of how the view of estates shifted in the media, from a bright n' perky Pathé film introducing this wonderful new housing philosophy to a Clockwork Orange parody that shows the increasing suspicion the public had of the estates.

For me, the show was most affecting when it dramatised the contemporary housing situation. Andrea is taken on a virtual reality tour of the 'next' utopian ideals in housing, which are priced at about £1 million a flat. Andrea nervously enquires about the 'affordable housing' she's heard about - only to be informed that 'affordable' is defined as 80% of market rates. Do the maths, then wonder to whom that's supposed to be affordable? 

Perhaps the true tragedy of Trap Street is that the decline and criminalisation of these estates was never inevitable. The Barbican Estate was constructed on precisely the same utopian philosophy by architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, working from Le Corbusier's ideas. With its lush green spaces, hanging baskets, fountains and multiple residential/cultural facilities, the Barbican Estate is still very much in demand. 

Meanwhile, down in South-East London, the similarly designed Thamesmead Estate lives up the stereotype: damp-stained and litter-strewn with seriously bad vibes. It's no wonder that Chris Cunningham shot Aphex Twin's iconic Come To Daddy video here.

The difference is that one houses the poor and one the rich - you don't have to think too hard to work out which group have been preyed upon. While the wealthy Barbican Estate residents largely own their flats and happily fork out for an army of caretakers, gardeners and maintenance workers, the Thamesmead residents have suffered the consequences of 35 years of ideological warfare against social housing.

The most effective weapon in the Government's arsenal is that councils are obliged to send half their rents and the vast majority of their profits from house sales directly to Whitehall. This means there simply aren't the resources to improve or maintain conditions: the buildings are left to decay until they're demolished and replaced by glittering (and empty) luxury flats. The developers ensure the right people get a nice wodge of cash in their back pocket, while communities are scattered to the winds.

Just around the corner from the theatre there's a large piece of graffiti scrawled on the Euston Road Underpass which reads "People are living in tents and million pound flats lie empty!" Couldn't have said it better myself. 

And if you want a more visceral look at the consequences of chronic underfunding and social stigmatisation just hop on the tube for twenty minutes, get off at Latimer Road, and take a sobering look at the burnt out husk of Grenfell Tower.

But despite all this misery and horror, and the most viciously targeted policies of successive governments, the dream of utopia still lingers in the imagination. The V&A recently announced that they're taking an eight-tonne fragment of the demolished Robin Hood Gardens estate to the Venice Biennale. This will be displayed on an outdoor scaffold, allowing visitors to stand on the iconic 'streets in the sky' as they look out onto the classical beauty of Venice, intended to make people reconsider how these architectural ideas can “can inform and inspire current thinking”.

So aaaanyway, back to Trap Street, which is great. 

The cast, Amelda Brown, Danusia Samal and Hamish MacDougal are all great. The live score by Zac Gvirtzman is great. Joshua Gadsby and Naomi Kuyck-Cohen's set design is great. And writers/directors/producers James Yeatman and Lauren Mooney have clearly done their homework (for the sake of completeness, they are also great). 

With Trap Street Kandinsky further solidifies its reputation as the go-to theatre company for political and social theatre free of stodge and preachiness. I can't wait to see what they tackle next.

Trap Street is at the New Diorama Theatre until 31st March. Tickets here.

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