Monday, August 18, 2014

London Road

London Road was definitely the most avant garde work of theater I've ever seen, something truly groundbreaking.

While Bill and I were visiting Mikey in London in 2012, this work was so positively reviewed by everyone from The Guardian to Time Out London. Experimental but not alienating, they promised.

It showed in the National's Cottsloe theater, one of the smaller stages, which worked extremely well. There were only a couple of rows around three sides of the stage. Being so close to the action and gave me sharp, vivid mental memories of the play. As the play started a very normal-looking guy shuffled around the stage, reaching out to audience members to shake their hands and leading in to the "Good evening, welcome" opening number.

The subject is grizzly and more serious than I'd ever normally watch — how a community reacted to and dealt with the aftermath of the discovery of three dead prostitutes in their neighborhood. Mistrust, fear, paranoia, and then their response and how they tried to move forward. "I'm interested in not necessarily the eye of the storm, but more the ripples that it creates around the side. The media and the neighborhood.... there was a whole other world that was affected." (Alecky Blythe, playwright)

It's a piece of verbatim theater, which uses actual interview footage as source material. Writers don't just paraphrase or write additional material, they essentially edit the verbatims into one narrative and set it to music. Cast members have to mimic exactly how the dialogue was originally spoken. My sister, who was taking her masters in English at the time, told us that movies and especially books can't depict authentic speech and conversation because we don't speak in sentences or organized paragraphs. Real speeach is full of "um"s, pauses, run-ons, laughter, incomplete sentences. Verbatim theater uses not just the exact lines, but the exact pronunciation used by subjects interviewed.

"Everyone is very, very nervous, um, and very unsure of everything, basically."

The style was definitely new and won't be to everyone's liking. Lines run in sometimes awkward, uncrafted speech. It was a little odd at first but it drew me in and I enjoyed the flow of action, even the music - which I remembered but struggled to sing along to after the show! They don't craft the lines like "No day but today" or "Sal Tlay Ka Siti" that stick with you.

I also find it pretty cool that London Road was borne out of a National Theater initiative. They have a development workshop where they invite playwrights and musicians to pair up and collaborate. That an organization could engineer something this and orchestrate this level of creativity is amazing.

They had a second run last year in a bigger theater, though I think the original was perfect.

Interview with the creative team, about the style and genre —

It has already been made into a film, scheduled to be released in 2015. Several cast members are in the movie, and the same director from the musical is leading the production, so hopefully it will be good.

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