Since 2013, Natasha Langridge has watched her neighbourhood become unrecognisable. As the developers and their machinery creep ever closer with every passing month, she documents their journey along side her love life. Birds sing in trees as she falls in love with Dave who lives in Korea, and those trees are chopped down as she gets off with her much younger Drama Lover.
These stories unfold on one of London’s canals, which are becoming increasingly crowded as more and more people seek to escape the prohibitive costs of living on the land. The audience hunkers round a rope-lit floor of a barge with a wood burning stove at one end, evoking one of the oldest rituals known to humankind.
Her story is angering, yet sadly recognisable to most Londoners. Langridge’s script takes the form of letters, each one dated, to her long-distance love. They are a great mix of joy and rage, including vivid accounts of her political activism and time volunteering in Calais. Langridge delivers them with undeniable passion and energy.
Though the content of the show is compelling and it’s told well, the structure becomes repetitive and the ending quickly peters out without the same care as the rest of the story. More visual variation would be welcome, though this is of course a challenge in the limited space of a canal boat.
Langridge is a skilled storyteller and In Memory of Leaves is an urgent, necessary work. Though a boat provides a particular atmosphere, this is a piece that would work in a range of conventional and unconventional theatre spaces, especially if they could facilitate projections, lighting and sound.
In Memory of Leaves runs through 21 October.
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