Directors: Hannah Kaye, Dominic Kelly, Jane Jeffrey and Julianne Von Siers
Writers: Benjamin Askew, Mike Mersea, Lashana Laana Lynch, and Rose Lewenstein
Reviewer: Antoinette Stott
London: Four Corners One Heart is a collection of short “stories inspired by the streets of London & the people who play on them”, all pieces of new writing from fresh merging talent and playing at the Theatre 503 in Battersea.
Starting the night off with a bang was the poetic writing of Benjamin Askew with South: Doggy style: a Fairy tale of One Tree Hill, a moving funny tale about falling out of love and out of magic, with your partner and with London. The play is fast paced and energetic, the acting hilarious and committed, full marks to Hannah Kaye for her seamless direction and the cast who breathed life into the characters short sojourn on stage. Askew’s script communicates through magic realism and delicious cynical humour a sombre glance into the ordinary sadness of losing love and magic once you see beneath the glitz and excitement.
A look into the underbelly of things is a theme carried into the next play North: Transits written by Mike Mersea. Focusing on the tentative reconnection between Jarvis and his estranged daughter Mersea explores the politics of family and of London, through their conversations we get to the meat of the play, Jarvis’s criticism of government policies regarding homelessness, his love of London complicated by its harsh realities and his failure as a husband and father. The energy of this piece was slower, more reflective, Mersea’s script thoughtful and compassionate. The piece is well put together if a tad bit under acted, but that is always better than melodrama when exploring potentially emotional material. Dominic Kelly’s direction is understated but effective, the script moving but never pushy.
London’s deep seated social issues are never very far from view in these plays, Lashana Laana Lynch’s astute script West: Crossroads is an hilarious dive into gender politics, culture vs upbringing, and the violence and tragedy that seems to have become the staple in estate life in London. This play is a crowd pleaser due in equal parts to the excellent script and the standout performance of co-stars Ayesha Antoine-Naomi and Michael Salami, the sparks in their sparring and the sweet youthful energy and fun they bring to the characters is captivating. Jane Jeffrey’s direction is joyful, the piece brims with playfulness making the sad notes even more effective for the fact that neither character allows themselves to be swamped and brought down by their surroundings, by their history.
The final piece of the night was for me less solid. Rose Lewenstein’s East: A Hundred Different Words gives voice to three residents of a council estate building, who have been given their eviction notice. The script isolates the three characters, giving us monologues in which the characters narrate their movements and their thoughts, I see why this was done as Lewenstein is emphasising the idea that for all their proximity and their wanting to, making a connection is the hardest thing to do, but it made her characters harder to connect with as an audience. On the surface her characters have so much potential, perhaps had she made their lives collide a bit, more would have come from them but in their isolation we get very little beyond the stereotype.
London is a sprawling city filled with people of various colours, shapes, sizes, cultures, and languages, a melting pot of experiences. This showcase of new writing celebrates the fact that in all our differences as Londoners our experiences are recognisable. The moments being explored are universal even if located in London; we are given glimpses into these Londoners lives, their politics and dramas, their dreams and their realities.