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Opposition, Ovalhouse Theatre

Written and Performed by Hannah Silva

Pros: A political satire which works remarkably well on many different levels. A brilliant performance from a dynamic young artist.

Cons: The sound effects and the music occasionally drown out the words. This is particularly bad during an important speech at the end.

Our Verdict: This is abstract theatre for people who don’t like abstract theatre (as well as those who do, of course). A unique, funny, incredibly clever one-woman show from a gifted, avant-garde performer.

Courtesy of The Ovalhouse

Since the 1960s, the Ovalhouse has been a pioneer in experimental theatre. Situated just a short walk from Oval tube station, the venue has two theatres – a medium sized space on the ground floor and a smaller studio upstairs. The Ovalhouse has a relaxed, modern feel to it with a team of friendly and efficient staff members who help to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

As I stepped into the Ovalhouse, I was handed a name badge and a laminated card which had a vaguely political-sounding statement written on it. We were then invited to take our seats in the upstairs space where we were welcomed by our performer, Hannah Silva, who wore a sharply-tailored suit and an unnervingly over-enthusiastic grin.

A ferociously charismatic Silva begins the show with a nonsensical, repetitive speech overflowing with political buzzwords and delivered with increasing speed and energy – borrowing, spending, tax, borrowing, spending, tax, borrowing, spending, tax. Her use of positive, affirmative body language teamed with repetitive, rhythmic tones gently lulls her audience into hazy confusion. With Silva’s considerable charisma and enthusiasm, it is difficult not to believe in the nonsense she is feeding us. As we are bombarded with endless disconcerting information, a buzzing sense of excitement permeates the room. At one point, we are invited to read out the laminated statements which were handed to us earlier in the foyer. My statement had something to do with suicide rates in Britain and although it made very little sense to me, I found myself reading it out with a certain conviction.

Silva’s speeches are laced with sexual language much like the subliminal messages used in advertising. There is a section of the play where the word ‘control’ is repeated at length with intermittent, random sexual references. At another point, Silva shows us a live twitter feed where she reads out opinion tweets to prove an entirely unrelated point. The interactive element of the show also keeps us enthralled, lest we lose focus on Silva’s hypnotic words. Perhaps one of the most poignant moments of the show is when Silva’s speech contains the line ‘great liars are also great magicians’. The regular rhythms, collective confusion and the subtle sexual tone of her words invite us to become complicit in her empty rhetoric but by allowing ourselves to join in with something we don’t quite understand, we become moronic accomplices in Silva’s secret agenda.

I once watched a show which endeavoured to explore the manipulative, hypnotic power of Hitler’s speeches. The programme had argued that the majority of ordinary people in Germany didn’t have any real grasp of the unspeakable corruption they were supporting. Silva goes one step further with this idea by allowing us as audience members to become victims of this mass manipulation but with much of it hinting at modern day politics. We are encouraged to chant silly slogans and join in games which nobody really understands and yet, through Silva’s unshakable charisma, it somehow feels like we are part of something very new and exciting.

Writing a review for an abstract piece can be a tricky business. My experience of this show may be very different from yours. However, I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this performance. Silva has mastered many tricky aspects of physical theatre and her talents are both varied and plentiful. Whether you enjoy abstract theatre or not and even if your political knowledge is embarrassingly limited (like mine), this show is sufficiently multi-layered and entertaining to keep you thinking (and laughing) both during the performance and after.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Opposition runs at the Ovalhouse until 17th November 2012.
Box Office: 020 7582 7680 or book online at http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/opposition

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Everything Theatre
Founded in 2011, Everything Theatre started life as a pokey blog run by two theatre enthusiasts and – thanks to the Entry Pass Scheme for 16-25 year olds – regular National Theatre goers. Today, we are run by part-time volunteers from a wide array of backgrounds. Among our various contributors are people who work in theatre, but also people who work in law, medicine, events, marketing and even psychiatry! We are all united by our love for the London theatre scene.