Sunday, 18 October 2015

Review: State of Fear. Responsibility to…?, Southwark Playhouse

“Do you think we should...maybe...help”

Time Zone Theatre’s call for budding playwrights to respond to the current UK political climate saw over 200 writers submit work and once 7 successful entrants were chosen, they were staged as an evening at the Southwark Playhouse called State of Fear. Responsibility to…?. New writing, fresh acting talent, emerging directors and hyper-contemporary reference points, it all made for quite the sparky Sunday evening. 

My unpreparedness for the roads of Elephant and Castle being replaced meant I missed the opening two shorts, The Watchers by Jayne Woodhouse and Just Like Me by Rob Johnston. But I was able to take in the other 5 and get a good sense for the over-riding themes of the evening – a burning anger at the ruling elite (in all its forms) and a fierce indictment of societal indifference in response.

This second point came across strongest in The Fabulous Derek Alfrick by Tom Powell, directed playfully by Time Zone’s AD Pamela Schermann, and Mai Leh Dinh’s Season’s Greetings with Stevan Mijailovic at the helm. The former took aim at the liberal intentions behind giving to beggars as the donation of a quid snowballs into something much more whereas the latter much more viciously skewered middle-class hypocrisy in all its willful blindness.

By contrast, Britain for Breakfast by David Bottomley and Walruses by Daniel Segeth both turned their focus on the bleakness of the larger picture within which we’re all operating. The dehumanising bureaucracy underpinning the immigration system as it reduces horrendous refugee experiences to yes/no answers, the shifting mindset of big charities in the realisation that there’s only so much we can do to help – both writers here caught a good sense of the helplessness so many feel. 

My favourite of the pieces though was Life Sentence by Siân Rowland, a considered monologue sensitively directed by Tessa Hart with Victoria Porter’s grieving woman, a single mother of what she thinks is a relatively normal son, the truth of whose disappearance on holiday slowly becomes horrifically apparent. So a thought-provoking evening and one full of burgeoning talent with more than a couple of names emerging as ones to look out for in the future.

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