Who Cares, VAULT Festival

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by Becky Lennon

Presented by Just Add Milk (JAM), Conor Hunt’s Who Cares is a powerful and moving piece of theatre which explores the challenges faced in society today because of austerity. We join Jamie (Reece Pantry), who is enjoying a pint in his local pub The Crown, served by the charming bartender Dan (Kyle Rowe), who claims he is the ‘Shakespeare of Swears’. We follow the pair on their journey to create a final send-off for the pub, in hope that they can save their beloved local by showcasing the need for this community space, which is so important to Jamie and Dan in different ways.

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Exceptional Promise, Bush Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

1. What is ‘Exceptional Promise’?
a. Another name for a UK Tier 1 visa
b. An interactive game show-slash-performance piece
c. A critique of the cesspit that is London’s housing market
d. All of the above

If you answered ‘D’, then you win! You’re one step closer to getting the keys to your dream house. But first – you need to survive the rest of the rounds and beat your other two opponents, otherwise you’re doomed to dodgy landlords and housemates forever.

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The Good Landlord, Vault Festival


By Laura Kressly

What would you be willing to give up to pay a mere £800 for a spacious, 2-bedroom flat with a view of St Paul’s from one room and Westminster from another? How about your privacy? Tom and Ed love the place at first sight, but Tom is rather put off by the cameras in every room that a grinning estate agent assures are for security purposes.

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In Memory of Leaves, Fordham Gallery Barge


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.

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Skyline, Ugly Duck

rsz_278df7cf00000578-3032452-image-m-8_1429115791409It’s panto season, and our stages are filled with villains, heroes and dames. Playwright David Bottomley’s new work-in-progress has some passing resemblance to the characters in Britain’s traditional seasonal offerings, but his new play on the London housing crisis is darker, angering fare. Capturing its victims’ lack of power and its perpetuators’ greed, Skyline doesn’t offer a solution but still states a clear opinion on the issue. With a cast of five playing seven characters, the audience sees a microcosmic cross section of social classes who, with poetic and pointed language, are a powerful reminder of the importance of secure housing. There is still some work to be done on the script, but the staged reading in conjunction with a pre-show talk and an exhibition by Alternative Press makes a powerful point that something needs to change to prevent social cleaning through housing policy in London.

Bottomley has a clear gift with words. There’s a subtle poetry that effectively captures his characters’ feelings, laying them exposed and raw for the taking. There could be more differentiation between their rhythms and word choices, though. Drag queen Roxanne’s (Paul L. Martin) closing monologue is similar to that of unemployed single dad and grandfather from Africa, Rex (Kevin Golding). His 28-year-old daughter Tanya occasionally sounds like her Tory MP Francesca (Karen Hill). He does well to go against stereotypes, but there’s a middle ground between them and homogenisation that hasn’t been completely reached yet.

His most complex character is Francesca. Despite being a Tory who’s having an affair with villainous property developer Jasper (Cameron Robertson), the favours she grants him directly conflict with her instinct to do right by her constituents, and values the old London that Jasper desperately wants to demolish. Her dialogue is occasionally overwritten, but she otherwise feels like a real, well-rounded individual. Jasper does as well, though not to the same extent. He could perhaps do with a touch more humanity to make him less cartoonish, even though there must be people out there as horrible as he is. Rex’s inner anguish erupts in balance to the calmer Tanya, who satisfyingly shows her true feelings in Francesca’s surgery. An interesting experiment would be to explore further integration of these characters: what if Rex and Jasper meet? Tanya and Roxanne? There’s space for more scenes without the play feeling too long.

Skyline has plenty of excellent moments, like the only scene between Jasper and Roxanne (a colourful character that’s underused) that shows how truly horrible Jasper is, and Roxanne’s need for a place she can put down roots. Rex’s desperation and Tanya’s resignation come to a head in a climactic final scene, just after Francesca and Jasper do the same. Even though there’s resolution, Bottomley skilfully alludes to the wider landscape and the struggles countless Londoners face due to the housing crisis in these final scenes. Roxanne’s gorgeous monologue that serves as an epilogue underlines the entire play, but dilutes the power in Tanya and Rex’s scene. It would work well earlier, maybe in the scene between her and Jasper.

Though Skyline is still in its development stage, it is remarkably polished and well-structured. A good cast own Bottomley’s rich language and the call for change is clear but not preachy. Some gentle development will whip this story into an even more powerful piece of political theatre.

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