Spoken word, drama, poetry and music combine to bring London to life in these four very different stories from the city.
Spoken word is an intensely personal and immediate way to communicate with an audience, and all the artists at this event, curated by Karis Halsall, reach out with powerful and evocative performances that take us through 24 hectic hours of London life, from night to day and back again.
Sam Organ’s electronic soundscape and moving image opens the evening, creating an eerie, unsettling vision of the city. This becomes the backdrop for Karis Halsall’s ‘Night’. A woman’s chance encounter with a figure from her past sets off a chain reaction of insecurities and self-doubt. Halsall’s gift for comedy is quickly evident as she surveys the overall fabulousness of her rival, from her ‘proper’ watch to her well-cut coat – a sorry contrast to her own outsize cast-off – but the urge to run away wins out over the impulse to shove Ms Perfect under a train. Halsall has created a strong character for this performance, and this is a story with potential for greater development. How did this disintegration of a life come about? And who is the other woman, with the power to unsettle her to the point of desperation?
‘Day’ follows, with Tommy Sissons, accompanied by the insistent, hypnotic rhythms of Normanton Street on bass and guitar. Sissons gives a tour de force with this passionate declamation, an elegy for lost youth, railing against the inner-city tensions and political pressures of London life that push his contemporaries into fatal situations including street violence, road accidents, and suicide. Writing poetry cannot lift a man beyond the reach of danger, but Sissons is clear that words have transported him into another world. When he’s writing, he explains, nothing and no one can reach him. It’s a gift indeed, and he is the 2014 UK Slambassador Champion.
A quirky and altogether more optimistic performance comes from Gemma Rogers, with music by Nick Rogers, Dominic Kennedy and Thomas Hammond. It’s essentially a ‘country mouse’ tale of Bella, who dumps her boring husband in Eastbourne for the good life in London, aided and abetted by old friend and party queen Rox.
Rogers has charm and charisma on stage, and her narrative is crystal clear, with clever use of pre-recorded sound tracks to allow other characters to join in the action. There’s also the bonus of tender, funny songs to punctuate the story, with Rogers joining the other musicians on ukelele.
And although London’s noise and chaos quickly palls for Bella, a new love is suddenly enough to transform the way she sees the city, bringing this warm and sharply observed story to a close. (Look out for Gemma Rogers at Hampstead Theatre’s Drama and Literary Festival in March.)
‘Night’ falls once again and Deanna Rodger wanders on to the stage, apparently full of uncertainty. Her story starts in a bar, where a young woman has her eye on a guy but is desperately trying to stay cool. But Rodger’s initial diffidence soon melts away and she moves into a stirring storm of words about this city that cannot and will not sleep, about 24-hour light that gives neither silence nor time for reflection. Along the way she also gets swept into a romance that leaves her with the bitter knowledge that she will never be enough for the man she loves. Deanna’s poetry is sharp, clever and moving, with music from pianist Tuesday Born. She’ll be presenting a one-woman show LondonMatter in 2015, as well as teaching Writing Poetry for Performance at Brunel university, alongside Benjamin Zephaniah.
Theatre 503 continues its proud tradition of presenting new work with this engaging and challenging showcase.
Last performance Saturday January 17, 7.30pm
Theatre 503 is at The Latchmere, 503 Battersea Park Road, London SW11 3BW.
020 7978 7040